An online petition to stop Cardiff Council selling the running of St David’s Hall and the New Theatre has gathered 4,000 signatures in four days.
Helen Griffith, a 50-year-old housewife, started the petition on Friday after she learnt of the council proposals. She was horrified when she heard the cultural venues may be sacrificed.
Several celebrities have already put their name to the petition. These include Welsh singer Iris Williams, and Scottish actor Brian Cox. Signatures have been received from as far afield as Australia.
Mrs Griffith is originally from Cardiff, but now lives in Star, north Pembrokeshire. She still travels into Cardiff frequently for its arts scene and couldn’t believe the council’s proposal.
“I was just totally shocked and stunned to be honest. I’ve used St David’s Hall and the New Theatre all my life. I have grandchildren now and we’ve just started to introduce them to the theatre,” she said.
The proposed sale of the venues could result in their closure, leaving Cardiff with only the Millennium Centre and the Motorpoint Arena.
There are concerns this could signal the end of theatrical performances for our Capital. Although the council would still own the buildings, finding an outside provider to take over the management could result in a change of use and mean Cardiff takes a step back on the cultural landscape.
Russell Goodway, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “I am more optimistic about finding a company to take on the New Theatre than I am about St David’s Hall. “We are talking to Live Nation, the firm that runs the Motorpoint Arena, about the possibility of their taking on The New Theatre.”
Offloading the two buildings is merely a small part of the council’s drastic cuts, which must equate to savings of £50m in an extremely difficult year for the Labour administration. The petition has provided an extensive list of supporters who believe the venues should remain, with many people incensed by such major services being put at risk.
William Lark, from Cardiff, wrote: “The New Theatre is a special old theatre. It gave my daughter her first taste of theatre when she was lucky enough to be one of the actual babes in “Babes in the Wood” pantomime with Roy Hudd many years ago. She is now in Les Mis in London.”
James Duggan, also from Cardiff, said: “Cardiff is a city full of culture with a rich heritage and history of live musical and dramatic entertainment. Selling off these hugely loved and important buildings would be a travesty.” There are fears over the wider economic effects for the city, with the St David’s Hall conference facility currently bringing investment to many other local businesses.
Mrs Griffith, founder of the petition, doesn’t think the proposal is the right solution: “There has to be other roads they can go down, even if, God forbid, it’s getting sponsors for the shows. “Selling off the family silver fills a hole, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” she said.
You can find the petition online by going to: www.change.org and searching for “St David’s Hall” or “New Theatre”.