Beds, Herts & Bucks

OVO theatre company to run Maltings Arts Theatre for next three years

Maltings Arts Theatre foyer
Image caption Under OVO's direction the Maltings Arts Theatre' foyer has been made more welcoming

A volunteer-run theatre company has been told it can run a Hertfordshire venue for a further three years.

St Albans District Council has agreed to extend an existing agreement with the OVO group to develop programming at St Albans' Maltings Arts Theatre.

The move follows a successful six-month pilot scheme in which the company increased audiences by at least 25%.

Meanwhile, the council had been consulting on whether it should remain a live events venue.

The 140-seat theatre's future had been in doubt with the previous council administration planning to turn it into a digital cinema.

In 2011, the new council started a consultation on how the venue could best be used and asked OVO to create programming for the theatre while the review took place.

'Edgy and innovative'

A council meeting on Thursday reported that the consultation showed a high level of support for the theatre to continue as a live performance venue and it also noted the case for the digital cinema project had not been made.

Established in 2002, the St Albans-based OVO used to perform its "innovative, imaginative and inspiring theatre" at its 40-seater venue in Pudding Lane.

After taking on the running of the Maltings venue it has presented its own work there and managed a consortium of local artists, featuring theatre as well as live music.

The use of volunteers has considerably reduced the running costs. The total operating cost for the period was just over £25,000 whereas, under the old model, staffing costs alone would have been just over £60,000.

Councillor Mike Wakely said: "OVO has shown that its business model of edgy and innovative programming and lower operating costs is viable."

Artistic director of OVO Adam Nichols said the group was "delighted to have the opportunity to continue the innovative partnership".

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