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Theatre's fund topped by final grant

December 2, 2008 10:51 AM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette
Brentwood Theatre

Funding for Brentwood Theatre is secure

A £400,000 target to revamp the town's theatre has been reached after years of fundraising - thanks to a second huge grant from Brentwood Borough Council.

The £80,000 donation to Brentwood Theatre brings the council's total contribution to £130,000 - a third of the total needed for the ongoing refurbishment.

The council initially donated £50,000 to the theatre's campaign in April 2007, with the Gazette also dishing out £10,000 - the largest donation in our history.

However, there were losers,with Phoenix FM, the town's community radio station, having its application for a £25,000 grant from the same funding pot turned down.

The station was advised to apply to Essex County Council's Community Initiative Fund (CIF), which last week also gave £10,000 to Brentwood.

In return for the £80,000 grant, Brentwood Theatre will offer meeting room space to the community free of charge and has plans to open the coffee shop facility to the public.

The decision to give the money was left entirely in the hands of opposition councillors after every Tory member declared a prejudicial interest. Tory councillor Mark Reed is also the theatre's administrator and mainstay of the fundraising effort.

Brentwood Theatre trustee Peter Mayo said: "We are very grateful for the tremendous support the council has shown. It is very generous and is the sort of partnership we are very happy to be in."

Phoenix FM station manager Steve Mead said: "We are happy. It wasn't a flat turn-down. We have had correspondence from Brandon Lewis saying the council is going to help us apply for CIF money.

"We are confident of getting the CIF money and it is nice to have the council on board with their experience."

Lib Dem Cllr David Kendall - who chaired the discussions while the Tory chairman of the policy committee, Cllr Brandon Lewis, was out of the council chamber - said: "I am delighted that we were able to give Brentwood Theatre the funding it desperately need."

But he said he was disappointed that his motion for Phoenix FM to receive £25,000 was rejected. "I am disappointed the administration felt unable to support my motion," he said.

"Phoenix FM is a valuable asset to Brentwood and plays an important part in our community. I have now asked senior council officers to speak again to Phoenix to find out what specific areas of the Assizes criteria they are failing to meet. If the council genuinely wants to help Phoenix, then it may have to seriously consider changing the criteria.

"In the meantime, if Phoenix is unable to secure CIF funding, I will be bringing back another motion to try to get it the money it so badly needs."