Farnham Theatre lovers rejoice and regret.

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?

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Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 21.46.53.pngFollowing 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?

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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.

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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

6 thoughts on “Farnham Theatre lovers rejoice and regret.”

  1. When we moved to Farnham 37 years ago, we used to take great pleasure in attending many performances at the Redgrave Theatre. Unfortunately over the years, the attendances started to dwindle. There must be a host of reasons why this was so.
    The Theatre ran out of steam long before Brightwells came along. So the last rites had been given long before it was demolished.
    However, have things changed? Would there be a demand? If a new theatre was versatile in the types of attractions presented, would it just compete with the Maltings?
    But if Brightwells Yard is too succeed, it needs a LOT more than just shops and chain restaurants, it needs to be Culture Centric. So maybe it’s worth a punt.

  2. JWS has got it right again. I too attended the theatre when it was operating but some of the productions were not customer focused and consequently audience figures dropped dramatically. The operating losses incurred were far to rich for the then councillors to be able to continue using ratepayers money to keep the theatre afloat.

    1. And yet those same councillors approved the current Brightwells Scheme…apparently throwing that sensible caution as to the use of taxpayers money to the wind?

      …and Surrey Conservatives in their investment…

    2. Try reading to-days Daily Mail and see which Market Town has come 4th more desirable place to live in the country.

      You will see that Horsham – just over the Surrey/Sussex border hits the high note for one of the best places to live and work. Why? The WW did a little investigating on the internet and found it has half a dozen cinemas – including an Everyman Cinema where you sit on sofa’s and have your meals brought to your table. It also has The Capitol Theatre which not only shows films but also has an amazing range of theatrical performances. Its town centre is also almost completely free of traffic. Its residents aren’t choking to death on fumes like us here in Farnham. Come on over and breathe in our country air Jim? You certainly won’t come back.

      Waverley Borough Council needs to be more imaginative particularly when it is using ratepayers’ money?

      Thank goodness the new administration is being more open-minded – times have changed.

      Perhaps someday soon WBC will admit just how much Blightwells has cost us all?

  3. The evident shortfall in what Brightwells will provide in terms of financial return clearly means we need to seek other sorts of value where possible. Keeping our options open and looking out for such opportunities is something I am keen to do certainly.

  4. Glad to see this causing a debate. In our book you will be able to read of the background to the Redgrave’s decline. It was complex and relevant to that particular period in history. Other theatres survived, but this one fell sacrificially. Times have moved on and theatres in and around London are flourishing.

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