Waverley councillors under its Tory administration may have destroyed Farnham’s Redgrave Theatre but they will never destroy its memory in the hearts of the town’s residents.
A book charting the history and demise of the monument to the famous Redgrave Dynasty – whose namesake Sir Michael Redgrave was a former housemaster at Cranleigh School, will soon be published.
As you will see from the information in the Theatre’s newsletter below, the cover contains a reproduction of a telegram to the Castle Theatre from Noel Coward, himself once a resident of Alfold during the war years. Links with the treasured Farnham and Castle Theatres come from right across the Waverley borough – and its towns and villages have mourned their loss alongside The Farnham Theatre Association. As do we all here at The Waverley Web.
History will show that to send in the bulldozers and sacrifice the theatre on the altar of more retail, more restaurants and homes, will be a permanent stain on Farnham’s history.
Thankfully the new leaders of Waverley Borough council have agreed to take a further look at the East Street development – which is funded jointly by Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council with OUR MONEY! Times they are a changing, fast. It is time that ‘Your Waverley’ took a closer look at Blightwells Yard snd brought it in line with a 2020 vision – not a millennium vision?
Following the 5th December Farnham Herald headline for a Farnham Theatre, a negative letter soon appeared from one resident, Mr. Stephens.
He had clearly been influenced by Waverley’s ‘spin doctors’ who had once desired it -gone to make way for a grand new East Street development. Notwithstanding this, more letters supporting theatre and critical of the development appeared. We reproduce one below which is from one of our committee member, John Price. This letter has been picked up by John Spackman for the Say Yes to the Appropriate Development of East Street website:
• Easier to destroy than construct..
DAVID WYLDE’S excellent letter (January 9) once again shows the sense of his arguments based on practical experience and common sense.
It has been said it is much easier to destroy than construct, the latter taking much time, ability, thought and often hard earned revenue.
Mr Stephens’ need to move on has, of course, been undertaken and changes in presenting theatre, cinema and television are continuous and provide constant challenges for those who work in these fields.
Is it not apparent to Mr Stephens that the British Isles is a world leader in these fields. It requires great skills, perseverance and backing from much of the population.
We have provided the greatest playwright who ever lived, the invention of television and a language which much of the world communicates with. But I wonder locally whether we have the necessary politicians and administrators with skills to enable matters to progress?
Mr Stephens should remember that all young school children love acting first as participants in the school Christmas play followed by some acting in the secondary
stage of education, plays of all kinds.
It is a useful tool for education and a few dedicated individuals may decide to embark on an uncertain and competitive career, not only in an acting capacity but also in the necessary technical side. I wonder why our local university provides courses for the latter?
Some years ago the Redgrave Theatre Company and its varied activities were extolled in the House of Commons as a centre of excellence with the minister of culture suggesting other theatres could follow its example. You could read the debate in Hansard.
I get the feeling the views of a few local leaders and the then chief executive of Waverley and leader of the council and a member of the Regional Arts Council were not happy with support.
A theatre was ruled out in the bids for redevelopment of Brightwells, to the surprise of Crest Nicholson.
I am convinced there is a demand for a professional theatre building, hopefully with good acoustics for music, but it takes much hard work to obtain the results the first Redgrave obtained.
And remember, theatre did not start with Shakespeare. It goes back to the Romans, the Greeks and the ancient Egyptians. A long, long time.
John Price Farnham Theatre Association