Full survey results reveal appetite to return to Spalding's South Holland Centre
Residents expressed they were confident about returning to the South Holland Centre in a key survey used to shape the venue’s future.
The district council said customers have called for cinema as a priority - and that a sizeable chunk want social distancing measures at the theatre. Now the full results can be revealed for the first time, following a Freedom of Information request by the Spalding Guardian.
The poll was conducted by the council between May 13 and 20 - when some lockdown restrictions were still in place - and asked users what they wanted to see at the theatre.
The survey, which attracted 1,870 responses, showed:
The council recently agreed a new ‘flexible’ staffing structure, cutting roles in a bid to reduce the £250k-a-year cost of running the centre.
The Keep the South Holland Centre a-LIVE group was set up by local arts groups to air concerns that cuts could jeopardise the future of live performances at the venue.
Karl Gernert, director of Act II Theatre Company, was pleased that the survey shows strong support for the South Holland Centre.
He said: “There are three quarters of the respondents who are confident or very confident and that’s the nub of it all, which is great.
“If there’s ever been a need for culture it’s now.”
Members of the Keep the South Holland Centre a-LIVE group held talks with the council and will form a Friends of the South Holland Centre body to support the new management team.
Some campaigners fear the council is setting the centre up to fail - but Mr Gernert is hopeful that the talks will bear fruit.
He added: “I can’t help but feeling a bit more cautiously optimistic. I do feel like the council want to make a success of it.”
The centre eventually re-opened for a summer series of cinema showings in late July - and live performances will return in October.
SADOS chairman Jodie Schweikhardt wants the council to provide more details on the running of the centre so that she can properly begin planning for 2022 shows.
She said there are still ‘unanswered questions’ regarding the South Holland Centre and the group needs to know key information such as the size of crowds it is allowed to sell to - with licences for musicals costing in the region of £10,000.
She added: “We can’t wait to get back into rehearsals but how can we rehearse until we know what we are going to get in?
“We are still no better off. We don’t know what’s happening and we are at this stumbling block.”
The council recently confirmed to our sister title, the Lincolnshire Free Press, that fees will not be put up for those using the centre and said it has held positive talks with arts groups.
Coun Gary Taylor, portfolio holder for facilities, said he was pleased the survey ‘reinforced’ support for the centre.
He said: “We are serious about its future but we do need to be realistic and businesslike about it.”
Places such as the West End already operate with full houses - and Coun Taylor said that could happen again at the South Holland Centre.
He said the plan is for the venue to be flexible - with the option of full seating capacity for younger crowds of people who were comfortable without social distancing, for example, and reduced capacity for performances where the audience were more
Coun Taylor said: “We want to work with user groups so we are not putting pressure on them if they are nervous about that.”
The venue is also now able to attract the latest box office releases sooner - something audiences have long asked for.
Ethnic origin question
One question asked users for their ethnic origin, which brought some unusual responses. These included:
- Lesser green spotted Martian
- It’s irrelevant
Ideas for the centre
- The survey also contains a long list of suggestions and feedback. The anonymised comments include:
- It would be good if there were more music gigs throughout the year - something like the Stamford Corn Exchange manage to attract.
- Covid passports must be implemented, with no excuses.
- Locate a local artist to head an art society based at the centre.
- We need live entertainment in Spalding, particularly with a comical element.
- The cafe/bar is important too.
- SHC really needs to target children and young people to engage them interactively with the arts.
- A few craft classes would be nice.