Committee backs £1m-plus funding for Rhodes Arts Complex over next four years
The show will go on at Rhodes Arts Complex with a further four years’ backing from Bishop’s Stortford Town Council.
The finance and policy committee has recommended that the service level agreement should be renewed at the end of March next year, and the South Road centre’s annual £255k grant should continue.
The caveat is that the Rhodes trustees must ensure they ringfence £70,000 a year to smooth the complex’s transition to “a venue for weekly gigs, dance, community and commercial lets and a revitalised Bishop’s Stortford Museum” once a 500-seat theatre is built as part of plans for Old River Lane. Members also agreed that Rhodes should not be prevented from charging for parking during events in the future.
Once the new £30m facility in the Causway is open, the subsidy to Rhodes is expected to be capped at £100,000 annually, but these post-transition proposals will be thrashed out in detail when trustees present their latest proposals at a meeting of the finance and policy committee in September.
The new theatre and arts centre was scheduled to open in 2023, but the multi-storey car park development, which is the key to unlocking East Herts Council’s cultural quarter project, has already been hit by a series of legal challenges which are likely to lead to a delay. The new grant agreement with Rhodes will last for four years or until the new theatre opens - whichever is sooner.
For now, the committee made it clear it supports Rhodes. A report to the councillors from the trustees said: “Our emphasis has always been on customer care and having a ‘can do’ approach which we aim to continue. The ethos of Rhodes is based on it being a community hub and its success is reflected in our customer feedback.
“Moving forward, our enhanced theatre programme offering a wide range of performances for the whole community is a solid base for further growth in audience numbers. With the predicted expansion in our local population, visitor numbers will continue to increase.
“Rhodes will continue to offer excellent entertainment and community facilitates for the residents of Bishops Stortford and the surrounding areas.”
Footfall at Rhodes has grown from 120,393 in 2015-16 to 128,511 in the last financial year.