THE Taunton Theatre Association, which runs the Brewhouse theatre in Taunton, has released this message to the people of Taunton in a bid to secure their backing for the venue's future...

"WE are Taunton Theatre Association, a charity born out of a community’s passion to encourage, facilitate and promote excellent arts and cultural activities, to enrich the lives of those living, working and visiting the region.

Taunton Theatre Association’s initial aim was to reopen The Brewhouse. Five years on we have reinstated a dynamic, high-quality, diverse programme which enhances the prosperity of the region.

Demand for our programmes has swelled, alongside our reputation and growing regional population. We have presented more than 900 live performances.

For a small regional theatre, we punch well-above our weight, attracting household names from top-draw comedians to showbiz legends Jason Donavon, pictured, and Lesley Garrett.

There is something for all tastes, from Burlesque to Jonathan ‘Aggers’ to tickle your wicket. We welcome community groups and businesses who utilize our spaces and professional staff.

While speculation of a cinema on Firepool continues, we delivered one in three months. Since then we’ve screened 450 films and events, signing contracts with major distributors like Disney and Paramount.

50 exhibitions have graced our walls, including an Anne Frank exhibition which was visited by 36 schools and visitors from every nook and cranny of the South West.

This is The West Country:

With a positive mindset we create silver-linings, so while the Coal Orchard development gets underway and The Brewhouse is hemmed in by hoarding, we will be curating our first outdoor art exhibition, celebrating Somerset artists.

We’ve recorded 250,000 attendances since opening, our annual survey identified our second largest audience group lived outside TA postcodes, evidencing the vital role we play in attracting people to our region.

We like to raise the bar, across all our work, providing young people with inspirational artists to learn from and aspire to be is part of our every-day. The ripple effect on the economy is tangible.

What we do touches many people in a myriad of ways. We receive letters of gratitude from parents with children who have complex special needs, who participate and engage in our programmes. We’ve delivered 1,725 activities, from Silver-Smithing to our Unphilharmonic Orchestra in the spirit of fun, creativity and community.

The mental and physical benefits are immeasurable.

Taunton Theatre Association is built on volunteers, we rely on their enthusiasm and commitment; we credit them for our success and for making this region a better place to live, work and play.

Volunteering helps people back into employment and long-lasting friendships are formed.

This region is identified as high-risk, for people suffering from loneliness and isolation. It affects all ages.

As educational establishments struggle to deliver the full spectrum of arts subjects, we provide multiple opportunities, programming that features on the curriculum, offering work placements and performance opportunities.

We are engaged in talks with the consultants working for Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Somerset University Centre, to improve young people’s prospects.

We have also been invited to be part of a national project to celebrate the National Lottery’s 25th Anniversary and we are to commission Wassail Theatre Company to produce Whispering Willows, a show about Somerset’s willow industry, which will tour regional primary schools.


READ MORE: 'Back The Brewhouse - or face losing it,' say theatre bosses


Economically, we contribute much, analysis estimates we made a £3.4 million contribution to the local economy last year - not bad for a salaried headcount of 12 full-time equivalents.

Taunton Theatre Association keeps The Brewhouse open morning, noon and night, six or seven days a week.

As a charity in the not-for-profit arts sector, every penny we make is spent on our charitable objectives delivering excellent, engaging cultural experiences, educating people and enabling art to be made.

We deliver exceptional value for the council’s investment. Most not-for-profit arts organisations, with similar programmes receive three to five-times the amount of funding we do.

Prudent financial management, strategic investment and fundraising has allowed us to grow our business, raising £250,000 to support our work.

Running parallel to our day-to-day operation, we’ve invested in the region’s future prosperity, developing plans for a flexible, multi-purpose arts centre in the heart of Somerset’s County Town.

A decade of research and feasibility studies informed the council’s decision to create this community space on the site of The Brewhouse.

The project remodels the existing venue to deliver a 760-seat theatre, 180-seat studio theatre, cinema, gallery, performing and art studios. The building is designed, so that it could incorporate Taunton’s central library, a café with terraces and a roof garden.

The appointed, award-winning architects and theatre specialists produced plans that encapsulate the new council’s design principles, sustainability standards and community values.

Behind the design is a strong business case, designed to significantly improve services and drive efficiencies, contributing to a more vibrant inner-town day and night-time economy.

It was created to deliver a holistic, self-sustaining arts and cultural centre for generations to come.

The scale of this project optimises the parameters set by the council and those of the proposed site: a venue of regional significance delivering year-round entertainment - a catalyst for inward investment.

The facility would also allow us to develop the commercial side of our business, host more conferences, events and regional meetings.

Experts advised that our demographic and Taunton’s infrastructure could support a proposition of this nature. It was an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of people living, working and studying in the region.

The new council has put these plans on hold, while they consider an arena of the scale a city like Bristol is struggling to deliver.

We continue to engage with councillors to advise them about the merits of the existing scheme and the far-reaching benefits of our work.

We have outgrown The Brewhouse in terms of ambition, demand and technical facilities. We know that its scale is not financially viable.

To sustain the current quality, level and diversity of arts and culture, additional revenue investment is required, if the planned redevelopment or like-scheme on an alternative site is not delivered.

This project is a people’s project. It is not political. We believe it necessary to the health and well-being of Taunton, its hinterlands and communities.

Why? Because we believe that access to great arts is a birthright and should not be dependent on your postcode.

The Liberal Democrats’ election campaign was to Demand Better – we agree.

We believe we are best placed to help the council deliver the best possible arts and cultural solution to Somerset West and Taunton. Why? Because of our track record - and because you deserve it.

If arts and culture matter to you, please write to the Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council, Federica Smith-Roberts at Cllr.f.smith-roberts@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk - and your local councillor - and tell them what we and The Brewhouse mean to you.

You can also write to MP Rebecca Pow via rebecca.pow.mp@parliament.uk.

The council will make some important decisions on Taunton Theatre Association’s funding on October 8 - it is important your voice is heard.

Don’t leave it too late.

Taunton Theatre Association Trustees"