AS YOU may or may not know, we launched our second on-line newspaper (www.yourharlow.com) on July 1st.
If I was asked to reflect on our first month, one of the first things would be that we have seen more co-operation between the arts organisations in Harlow in one month, than we have in five years in Thurrock.
Recently, someone asked me why the Thurrock Arts Society did not seem to be involved with Thurrock International Celebration of Culture (TICC). Then someone asked me why TICC was not involved with T-Fest. It is not necessarily anyone’s fault but seemed symptomatic of Thurrock life.
Now, I could be wrong (and often am!) but there seems a natural symbiotic relationship between all the groups from The Square to Livewire Theatre to Moot House Players to Gibberd Gallery to Parndon Mill and back to The Square.
We have also seen that the Harlow Playhouse is flourishing. One way we know is that a fantastic brochure came through the letter box recently, with a huge variety of shows between now and Christmas.
Of course, the Playhouse has seen challenging times. It closed for a year in 1995 but it now has great shows with audiences coming from far and wide.
It’s high profile contrasts sharply with the Thameside Theatre in Grays. Whilst other theatres proudly boast at the front of their premises of the up-coming shows that they are presenting, the Thameside announces that Thurrock has the lowest council tax in Essex.
When you walk in, you notice that the Cafe4U has shut down, leaving empty tables and chairs. To the right, is the box office but we understand that is about to go as well.
The reality is that the council need to cut up to £250,000 from the Thameside complex budget from 2014. But critics say that it looks like a theatre that is being run down and that is a dangerous impression to give.
Of course, there are options in the pipeline. Discussions are, allegedly, on-going with the State Cinema but they have been saying something close to that for ten years. And perhaps, in ten years time, with a re-generated Grays, I may look back on this article and decide that I should have had a little more faith.
And of course, a saving grace is the shows the Royal Opera House have been putting on throughout the summer as well as the performances that came under the banner of TICC.
When YT started (Sept 2008) the recording studio at the Youth and Connexions Service in Orsett Road was full of activity. But despite a “re-brand” last year that both the mayor of Thurrock and education bosses attended, YT understands that it is once again, lying idle. Even the Trust in Music studio in Maidstone Road has shut down.
Perhaps this is too pessimistic. One thing we have learned in Thurrock is that from Aveley to Corringham, the community is alive with activities and groups. In Harlow, we have found that there are arts orgs aplenty; plenty of political stories but we may have to work hard to locate all the community organisations.
As we said, there is a real danger in making a theatre look like it has closed down. Perhaps what it needs is a Friends of the Thameside. But they better hurry up..