A NEW era began at Whitby Pavilion on Tuesday as, for the first time in its 130-year history, the entertainment venue came under the stewardship of a private company.
Sheffield International Venues (SIV), which welcomes more than 4.5 million people to its arenas annually, has entered into a 10-year partnership with Scarborough Borough Council which will see it manage and redevelop the Pavilion complex.
In the first year of the partnership, SIV and the council have pledged to
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invest more than £700,000 in refurbishment of the Pavilion and Scarborough Spa and borough councillor David Chance said he is ecstatic that the building’s future has been safeguarded.
“When I came in to local politics it was this building that drove me into it,” said the cabinet portfolio holder for tourism and culture. “This is core to the community in Whitby, one could almost call it our village hall and so we have to preserve that.
“So I’m ecstatic, I honestly think we have safeguarded this building for the future.”
In entering into the partnership, which will see the council and SIV share profits equally, SBC have tapped into a wealth of experience in the entertainment industry, which has been lacking previously.
Chief executive of SIV, Steve Brailey, was the youngest-ever manager of Blackpool Tower. He said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be the new managers of the Whitby Pavilion and hope our involvement over the coming months and years will lead to an improved future for the Pavilion as well as the people of Whitby.
“However, we as a company won’t over-promise and under-deliver. It will be a gradual process and we are in it for the long term.”
For Elizabeth Cheyne, chair of Friends of Whitby Pavilion, the partnership is the realisation of a long-standing dream to protect the Pavilion for Whitby residents. She has been involved with the venue for 40 years and when asked whether she felt, with the Pavilion’s future seemingly secure, her job was complete, she said: “Oh no, we’re just starting. It’s the new part of an adventure. There’s no end to what we can do, it’s exciting times.”
However, she added that now is the time for Whitby residents to support the Pavilion to ensure it prospers: “The people of Whitby could really do with supporting this new venture and making a point to coming and telling people it’s there.”
While Mr Brailey and new general manager Helen Broadbent hope the Pavilion can become a hub for the town, they have warned residents not to expect wholesale short-term changes.
Instead developments will be focussed on “fairly low-cost things you can do to make it more attractive”, said Mr Brailey, who added that advertising plans for the Pavilion will be extended to not only include the town but also the larger catchment area, including Teesside.
Existing festivals will be developed and ideas that have been suggested to improve usage at the venue include a new comedy festival.
“When you talk to people Whitby is seen as a cool destination, more so than Scarborough,” Mr Brailey added. “We can make some big improvements to the Pavilion without big capital investment, but that isn’t to say we won’t.”
An additional bonus of the new partnership, according to Coun Chance, is that SBC are now able to calculate exactly how much the Pavilion will cost them each year, with no unexpected fluctuations.