Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Thameside Theatre: The show must go on?

WHEN YourThurrock launched a second newspaper (YourHarlow) in July 2013, we couldn’t help compare the the Harlow Playhouse with the Thameside Theatre.

You only have to go to the brochure for the Harlow Playhouse to see a packed itinerary of shows and performances. Audiences come from miles around to see some great acts, show premieres and top draw shows. It has a “Friends of the Playhouse”, a constant dialogue with funding streams and marketing relationships with key businesses in the town.

It contrasts sharply with the Thameside Theatre. Correction, the Thameside Complex. It is hard to know what is on. There is no brochure. Council officers, (apparently) who clearly know about these things, tell arts officer that it is not an effective tool.

Whilst senior council officers turn up to a kettle being boiled at the High House Production Park, they give the Thameside a very wide berth.

It is just a bit of a sad shell and as they say: If it feels as if it is closing down, if it looks like it is closing down, then it is, despite all the “listening exercises” going to close down.

Despite all that, the council are embarking on a listening exercise.

As part of Thurrock Council’s plans to check everything it owns and everything it does, the future of the Thameside complex is under the microscope over the next few weeks and months.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m determined to get this discussion right,” says council leader Cllr John Kent.

“There are a lot of services and voluntary groups based at the complex, but the key is the future of the theatre. We have to ask: Do we want a civic theatre in Thurrock?

“To me the answer is obvious – yes we do. The arts industry is becoming increasingly important to Thurrock and it would be counter to everything we’ve done so far if there wasn’t a thriving theatre in the borough.

“I want the local arts community – Thurrock Arts Council – to play an integral role in looking at the future of the theatre and the complex, and we must look at all the options too, but I want input from everyone.”

He said: “If my view succeeds, if we agree to maintain a theatre in Thurrock, what sort of theatre do we want? At a time when we’re looking at cutting services and staff, can we afford a theatre which costs £345,000 a year to run, can we afford the £½ million it would cost to bring it up to what’s described as a ‘reasonable state’?

“Or should we think differently? Should we consider working with our partners to create a brand new theatre, a theatre capable of attracting the big names, a theatre large enough to pay its way?

“We all love the Thameside; we all have memories invested in the theatre, but what if we create something bigger and better? That’s my dream for the arts in Thurrock and I’m calling on all those involved in the local arts scene to join with me, the council as a whole, and those investing in the arts here to make this dream a reality.”

The meeting of Thurrock Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday (13 August) evening will be discussing the future of the whole Thameside complex .


  1. I always felt that the Thameside Theatre should have been leased out to Impulse Leisure who have helped the Council reduce the £1.2 million net costs off running leisure facilities over the last 13 years.

    I know there are lots of other groups involved at the “Complex’ but I think Impulse would bring a different dimension to running things. Some private sector investment could be brought in to freshen things up. Who knows, the £345K cost could be significantly reduced over s fairly short timescale,

  2. Here we go again – been here before. Yes its important to have a local theatre but come on it needs leadership, passion and a will to market it properly. Too much vested interest and lack of vision for serving us the local people. I agree with Michael not only the Playhouse the Queens are also forward looking and open.

    Thameside has no real social media profile and its all a little antiquated when it comes to ease of booking. Sadly I go to the Queens and love the dynamic relationship they have with me as a customer and stakeholder. Not sure about the Impulse option but sure lessons can be learned from Queens.

  3. I think the main problems with this ‘complex’ are that it is ugly from the outside, dated on the inside, has far too many different uses which confuses people and is marketed very very poorly.

    The fact that you also have shows at Blackshots confuses people more. Thurrock only needs one theatre/performing space. The council needs to decide whether they want the Thameside to be a library and local history museum (which is my preferred idea) or a Theatre but it shouldn’t be both.

  4. I think Bernard87 has made a good point about the possible confusion between the Civic Hall and the Thameside.

    If Impulse Leisure, who run the Civic Hall, were given responsibility for the Thameside, they could better assess how the two might complement each other.


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