'Shock' at cancellation of ALL drama group's shows at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre due to staff shortages

Leighton Buzzard Drama Group claims it has been left suffering "financial and reputational damage" after Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) cancelled all its shows at the Library Theatre until October.

Members were left "shocked, deflated and demoralised" when it received notification from CBC recently stating that its confirmed bookings had been axed due to "lack of capacity and resilience in theatre staffing".

And despite suggesting what it believes is "a relatively simple solution" - supplying trained volunteer stewards for show nights - the club claims it's had no full explanation as to why CBC rejected the proposal.

Colin Aldous, chairman of Leighton Buzzard Drama Group, told the LBO: "At a time when local theatre matters more than ever, the performing arts in Leighton Buzzard are fighting for survival.

Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre

"Having no productions in the theatre is already causing the group financial and reputational damage. It is also a loss to the community of Leighton Buzzard of quality and award-winning drama.

"This theatre should not be closed - it should be a hub where the people of Leighton Buzzard and surrounding villages can enjoy educational and entertaining productions by local groups and other live entertainers."

Leighton Buzzard Drama Group was due to perform several shows over the next few months: No Dinner for Sinners (June 23 to 25); The Time Crystals (July 23) - a specially written production by local author Jim Fowler for an audience aged five to 12; and The Affairs of Husbands and Wives (September 22 to 24).

The decision to cancel shows was made before tickets went on sale, but members argue that they should have been consulted with.

The Anniversary was put on by the drama group earlier this year

Colin said: "Long term, if we cannot perform at the Library Theatre it could be disastrous for the group.

"It would mean either the group would cease to exist or we would need to look to perform in a theatre outside of our town. Would people travel to see us?

"What is the point of Leighton Buzzard Drama Group if it cannot perform in Leighton Buzzard?"

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He added: "With all of the above, we are seeking a reversal of CBC's decision to pull our productions so that perhaps two of them may be performed at our theatre. [No Dinner for Sinners has been postponed until March 2023]."

Colin claimed that upcoming shows at the theatre are "generally cinema productions" with the exception of: McMillan (June 11); Safari Adventure (August 11); Sounds of Simon & Garfunkel (September 30) and Great Expectations (October 2).

Colin said: "As you may know the theatre has recently undergone a major refit at a cost of several hundreds of thousands of pounds. This very attractive local asset has now gone dark for everything except cinema showings which we feel is a huge mistake."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: “Leighton Buzzard Drama Group are an important hirer, and we recognise the value they add to the cultural life in Leighton Buzzard. We are in regular contact with them in regards the staffing situation we are facing at the theatre. We are grateful for their generous offer of providing volunteers to enable their shows to go ahead and longer term we recognise the valuable role volunteers can play in supporting the theatre. However, the use of volunteers does not immediately resolve the issue of having trained staff with sufficient knowledge of the building and the operational aspects of the theatre to ensure the theatre can run safely.

“We are very sorry that it is not possible at present to provide a full programme at the theatre and for the negative impact it has had on Leighton Buzzard Drama Group and continue to offer support.

"We are working hard to resolve the recruitment challenges we face so that a full programme at the theatre can be offered from the autumn.”

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