Hire hikes could sink Littlehampton’s theatre groups

Tim Kimber is concerned any rise in hiring fees could severely impact those using the Windmill 'D15071138a
Tim Kimber is concerned any rise in hiring fees could severely impact those using the Windmill 'D15071138a

ASSURANCE is being sought that a new leisure provider for the Arun district won’t ‘sink’ Littlehampton’s thriving amateur dramatics scene.

Tim Kimber runs TJ Productions and fears the impending changeover of leisure contractors could threaten the future of the dramatics, dance and community groups which regularly use the Windmill Entertainment Centre.

Mr Kimber is fighting to ensure that, whichever new contractor is chosen by Arun District Council to take over the running of the facility from current operators Inspire Leisure, that there will be no hike in hiring fees.

His worry is if costs to hire the much-loved facility increase, many groups would not be able to cope.

Mr Kimber said: “I don’t want us to get distracted by who is going to be the new contractor. From a community point of view and an amateur dramatics perspective the most important thing we can do is to ensure the future of the Windmill is protected.

“If there’s no protection of this and the hire prices go through the roof then we are sunk. If the hire prices go up even by 20 per cent that would sink us.”

He said many groups who pay to use the Windmill often don’t make much in profits.

To hire the venue for a week, could cost somewhere in the region of £2,500.

He said it was ‘crucial’ the wording of any contract for new leisure operators stipulated no boost in the cost of hiring the theatre.

He added: “It’s a great facility for the young and the old people of the town to keep busy and do something. It would be a massive shame to if we lost this.”

An Arun District Council spokesman said: “Inspire Leisure has been advised to continue to take bookings under their existing terms and conditions until 31 March, 2017. These bookings will be passed on to the new operator in due course.

“The hire fees will be set by Inspire Leisure and should reflect the 2015/16 rate plus inflation, unless otherwise agreed by the council. We trust that this will give the theatre groups confidence to develop a programme for 2016/17.

“Thereafter, to fulfil its contractual obligations to the council, we expect the new operator to establish a working relationship with the theatre groups to ensure that the Windmill continues as a venue for the dramatic arts.”