Offering great entertainment and culture, along with participatory arts to connect people and communities, is a growing area of modern life. It creates economic development, jobs, skills, tourism and even develops opportunities for the wider creative industries and connects communities.
But Taunton has many venues such as The Brewhouse Theatre, Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, Creative Innovation Centre CIC (CICCIC), and other venue spaces in schools. So why do we need a new cultural venue for Taunton?
Firstly, its about capacity. Many top names and big theatre companies cannot deliver events and entertainment in small venues as they need to ensure that a certain amount of money is taken through ticket sales. Another is technical and space capacity. Small stages and inadequate technical provision can reduce the amount of quality performances within a theatre or entertainment space.
Secondly, we have vacant land in large areas of the town such as Firepool. Advocating a new versatile cultural entertainment venue in these areas can create a new cultural quarter for Taunton and with our world class cricket ground next door one can start to envisage a complete package of quality experiences for Taunton.
Thirdly, its economics of scale. For example, research we have done on other new venue proposals throughout the UK show that a 1000 or 1200-seater venue is best for bigger productions. In fact, at 1000 seats, venues present primarily one-night events; at 1200 seats, the programme is made up primarily of weekly runs. Of course, one may decide that such an ambitious seating plan is to far in the future and one may decide to only create a 800-seater venue. Such variants can be analysed through a feasibility study.
Fourth, is competition. At present in Somerset there are only a few venues that have 350 seats, such as The Macmillan Theatre in Bridgwater (built 2015 estimated at £8m to build). The Octagon in Yeovil has a 622 capacity. Cedars Hall is Wells has 350 and The Playhouse in Weston Super-mare has 644 seating capacity. The Brewhouse in Taunton has 350 seating and Tacchi-Morris has 250 seats. The Mecca Bingo hall in Taunton has 1100 capacity. Here we can clearly see that any new venue for Taunton should not compete with other venues to ensure an equal share of customers.
This new venue could also act as a Creative Industries Centre with part of the building dedicated to housing and supporting the sector and to increase the scale, quality and diversity of the creative workforce; support existing cultural and creative businesses; Create the conditions that lead to an increased rate of new business formation in the cultural and creative industries, and make Taunton Deane synonymous with cultural innovation.
Indirect economic impact is also an element for further study. For example, if 1000 people attend an event and each spend £40 per person on food, drink, transport, etc. locally that would equate to £40,000. Times that by 25 big events each year that would bring £1m into the local economy. For large 1000-seater venues our research has shown that they sell, as a minimum, 250,000 tickets per year. So, get those 250,000 to spend £40 in the local economy and that could generate £10m per annum.
Due to large scale events; whether cultural or non-cultural we believe consideration should be given to how local businesses can benefit. For example, within the multi purpose venue would there be outlet or supply opportunities for local businesses to be involved.
Fifth, is alignment to council objectives. The development of a new multi-purpose venue in Taunton has the potential to align with the council’s strategic objectives and priorities. It is recognised that Taunton’s cultural infrastructure will need to develop further to reflect its population growth and changing community and economic needs.
Sixth, is non-cultural activity. Mid-sized venues also typically have a very mixed programming offer including music, comedy, spoken word and ‘event’ cinema screenings as well as theatre. That could be problematic for Taunton, where the sustainability of a new venue would thus require it to compete directly with other local organisations (unless they are really big names that require large venues). Therefore, a mid-sized venue in Taunton would need to be a multifunctional hub, with other ways to generate footfall and boost income (e.g. conferencing, exhibitions, trade shows, etc.) (These ‘non-cultural’ uses would need to be examined in more depth were a large venue be the favoured size option.)
Imagine a large multi-purpose venue with a large theatre space with seating upstairs and down stairs. The ground floor seating can be removed making it open plan for all sorts of events. On quiet days it may house indoor markets, large open tea dances, or even big DJ nights or dance events. The space could also be used to even house large trade shows, Expo’s and mini-indoor festivals. At primetime it will have touring West End theatre productions, top bands and musicians, orchestras, opera and even Britain’s Got Talent auditions.
To the side of the main hall is a smaller theatre that houses smaller productions, may have 250 electric tiered seats (so the space can be open plan), screens regular cinema, features smaller local music events, and used for community productions. Additionally, there are smaller rooms used for meetings, rehearsal space, dance, workshops, small conferences, community art groups and much more.
With a focus on the arts and with appropriate design and planning this venue could also house great art exhibitions and with the right environmental and security controls one can invite national and international exhibitions to Taunton’s county town.
Arts engagement by region, 2017/18, shows that Arts engagement in the South West (86.2%), the East of England (83.4%), and the South East (83.3%) was significantly higher than in all other regions.
Over the period October 2017 to September 2018, 77.9% of adults had engaged with the arts at least once in the year prior to interview, and 63.0% of adults had engaged three or more times.
With over 1000+ seating capacity we would be able to attract bigger shows and audiences to Taunton and support local theatre companies
See big bands, well-known artists and great orchestras plus local music gigs and music development
Taunton would have a large dance hall for tea dances to DJ nights, plus the chance to hold indoor events like markets, trade shows and more
With multiple rooms we can create a great art gallery for visiting and local artists and used for education purposes
We can deliver workshops and taster session, toddler mornings or simply hold community events in a civic building of pride
We could provide a great creative space for the community to meet other people and groups and find out the latest community activities
With a population of 110,000 in Taunton Deane and more houses been built where will these people go for great entertainment and community events
Once established this venue could contribute as much as £10m in just five years and create jobs and boost local business
82% of people purchase food locally when you going out for entertainment and 55% drink elsewhere before and after
95% of the population of Taunton believe that Taunton Deane Brough Council should invest in culture and entertainment within Taunton
A larger theatre that can double as a concert venue would be really useful as well - it's shameful for a town like Taunton not to have a decent-size venue.
This isn't going to attract the really big names who need arenas to perform in, but it will deliver the next best thing
I would welcome the ability to visit Taunton to hear orchestral concerts, watch ballet and possibly opera or operetta. If the theatre were able to attract a broad and diverse programme of events I am sure it would serve all strands of society
I have lived here all my life and with my own children and aging parents I want to ensure that they all get equal opportunities to live in a place that has community, arts and culture at its heart