Theatre reopening is marred by cash woes

CELEBRATIONS to mark the reopening of a Highgate theatre have been marred by a cash crisis threatening its future

Tan Parsons

CELEBRATIONS to mark the reopening of a Highgate theatre have been marred by a cash crisis threatening its future.

Jacksons Lane in Archway Road reopened on Tuesday after being closed all of last year for repairs caused by storm damage.

But the party could be short-lived for the venue, which has hosted stand up comedy by the likes of Russell Brand and Alan Carr, because the Arts Council is likely to withdraw £128,000.

An Arts Council spokeswoman blamed Haringey Council for not investing in the theatre.

She said: "While we understand that Haringey Council is now carrying out essential repairs to the roof and windows of the building, it is our belief that it will still require substantial capital investment to bring it up to the standards required by audiences and artists for a contemporary performing arts facility.

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"Following conversations with Jacksons Lane, it does not appear to us that the landlord is committed to making or supporting that level of investment. This has given rise to serious concerns about the viability of the organisation going forward."

A final decision on whether to axe the cash will be made on January 18.

Lib Dem councillor Bob Hare, who is on the theatre's board, is furious at the plan.

He said: "It's the only centre of its kind in this part of Highgate - there isn't anywhere similar for miles.

"Kids need something local that's just a couple of streets away where they can go. The centre puts on a huge range of things from concerts and music to pantomime and theatre and it also provides a lot of classes for kids.

"This is not the sole source of financial income for the theatre but if this money is removed, then you are talking about a significant amount of core funding and once that goes, everything else will fall away too - it could be absolutely disastrous. If the theatre closes and the building goes dark it will be very difficult to resurrect."

Lib Dem leader Cllr Neil Williams accused the council of letting down theatre users.

He said: "We are going to write to all our constituents asking them to sign an urgent petition to the Arts Council to show the level of support that exists.

"It needs to be made clear to the Arts Council that Haringey has horribly let down the people who have used it for a number of years."

The Grade II-listed building reopened with a new roof and a new dance floor in its large upstairs studio.

Haringey's community boss Cllr Lorna Reith said the council is "fully committed" to supporting Jacksons Lane.

She said: "We are surprised by this decision and the reasons given for it."

Jacksons Lane director Melanie Sharpe declined the opportunity to comment on the situation.