Costs to save theatre which hosted The Beatles rise by £1 million
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
The cost of refurbishing a popular theatre which once played host to The Beatles has risen by more than £1 million – but councillors have pleaded for the investment to be made to save the venue.
Monmouthshire council has been left with an outstanding bill of £1,042,624 to refurbish Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre, on top of an initial estimate of £197,309 which has already been paid.
Funding of £278,000 is still to be found, and an extraordinary meeting with Abergavenny Town Council has been called to discuss a solution.
Closing the theatre, which has been in use for more than 100 years, is an option which has been included in a Monmouthshire council report coming before the authority’s cabinet and full council.
But the preferred option – to find the funding and carry out the refurbishment – was given the support of councillors at a meeting of the council’s economy and development select committee on Tuesday.
The meeting heard that costs increased ‘significantly’ after old seating was removed and further surveys revealed more work was needed in the project.
Issues such as the Covid pandemic, Suez Canal blockage and that the theatre is situated within the Grade-II-listed Abergavenny town hall have also been blamed for the hike in costs.
Cllr Giles Howard said the council faced “two stark choices”, saying: “We either do the theatre properly or we don’t do it at all”.
The Llanfoist Fawr member said he wanted to see the refurbishment carried out, describing it as being of “massive value to the town”.
“It’s a shame the prices have varied to cause us a problem, but the theatre has been crying out for this development for years,” he said.
Abergavenny councillor Sheila Woodhouse said the theatre is “a key venue” for events such as the town’s food festival, and that it is still used by the oldest amateur pantomime society in Wales.
The venue played host to The Beatles in 1963, while Pink Floyd and Tom Jones have also performed there.
“The theatre has been such a treasure, so highly thought of far and wide,” Cllr Woodhouse added.
Cllr Maureen Powell said it would be “a very sad day” if the theatre closed.
But Cllr Alan Davies raised concern the council may need to “plough more money in to keep [the] venue operational” in the future.
Cath Fallon, head of enterprise and community animation at Monmouthshire council, said she hoped Abergavenny Town Council will offer support towards the remaining funding.
She said the authority is also considering taking out loan funding towards the remaining costs.
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If they are going to do it then don’t skimp on budget as they did last time but do it properly using theatre consultants in conjunction with the users of the space.