Eastbourne theatre remains closed
An Eastbourne theatre which closed suddenly in June last year remains shut.
And council officials revealed this week the lease with the new company chosen to run the Under Ground Theatre below Eastbourne library has not yet been signed.
A spokesperson at East Sussex County Council said, “We’re expecting the lease to be signed imminently. We do not yet have an opening date, but it will be advertised as soon as a date is fixed.
“We’re keen to see the venue reopened as soon as possible with a varied programme of events for the whole community.”
The popular venue closed suddenly at the end of June last year and the Eastbourne Arts Centre Charitable Trust, which ran the theatre says it had hoped to have its lease renewed but the county council, which owns the premises, decided to offer the venue out to tender.
After a tender process which was extended, the council chose to lease the theatre instead to newly-formed community interest company Performance Initiative Eastbourne (PIE).
The company is headed by Shoes Simes – owner of The Eagle and the Dew Drop Inn and a licensee with 18 years’ experience running venues – and Dave Izumi – record producer, promoter and owner of Echo Zoo recording studios.
At the time they pledged to work with national promoters and theatre companies to “bring high-quality events to the town, with talks already underway to book high-profile touring acts”
But 12 months after the theatre closed – and six months after PIE was chosen, the theatre remains in darkness.
PIE has not responded to a request for a comment by the Herald but a county council spokesman said, “We announced the proposal to lease the Under Ground Theatre to PIE on September 21 last year after a period of inviting and evaluating proposals for the building.
“Since that time, we have taken the opportunity of carrying out some essential maintenance, which was required as the building has not had any work done on it for many years.
“Our professional advisors and legal representatives and those of PIE have been completing the details of the agreement for its future use.
“Any agreement like this does take time but both we and PIE are committed to ensuring the theatre is open again for the benefit of the community as soon as possible.”
Last year PIE was selected from five applicants, all of whom were scored against criteria including their experience in running venues, their vision for the theatre and planned programme of events.
At the time the county council’s Bill Bentley said, “The quality of applications we received was extremely high and we’re grateful to all the groups who applied.
“What particularly impressed us about the bid from PIE was the exciting and innovative vision they have for creating a cultural hub which provides high-quality entertainment and places itself at the heart of the community.
“They were also able to demonstrate a long-term financial commitment to the theatre and bring with them vast experience and commercial expertise in running venues and staging live events, which should put the venue on a sound footing for many years to come.
“This is a modern project driven by local entrepreneurs for local people and I look forward to an exciting programme of music, art and theatre events.”