North Devon Council says it needs more time to set up a permanent theatres contract but has agreed a new deal with Parkwood until January 2019

The Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe is expected to have a busy programme for 2018. Picture: Tony GussinThe Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe is expected to have a busy programme for 2018. Picture: Tony Gussin

The temporary contract to run both North Devon theatres has been extended until January, 2019.

Today (Monday) North Devon Council’s executive committee agreed to extend the existing contract with operator Parkwood.

Parkwood Entertainment Ltd – now named Parkwood Creative Ltd – was awarded the interim contract to run the Queen’s and Landmark theatres in April last year after North Devon Theatres Trust went into administration.

This April should have seen the permanent contract agreed after a tendering process, but the council has said it needs more time than it first thought to set this up.

Last March the community took to the streets calling on the powers-that-be to save North Devon's theatres. Picture: Tony GussinLast March the community took to the streets calling on the powers-that-be to save North Devon's theatres. Picture: Tony Gussin

The new contract will include a requirement for more events at the Landmark, with at least one per week. Several acts are already booked including comedians Jason Manford and Ed Byrne.

In his report to councillors, Mark Kentell said the delay overt the permanent contract had been due to needing a proper survey of both theatres, as well as a heavy workload for the parks, leisure and culture team.

The initial 12-month contract included a subsidy of £175,000 and the council would pay £131,250 for the second shorter temporary contract.

Councillors have also agreed for £30,000 to be spent on surveying both theatres.

The 2017 Barnstaple pantomime Beauty & the Beast has been hailed a great success. Picture: Paul ClappThe 2017 Barnstaple pantomime Beauty & the Beast has been hailed a great success. Picture: Paul Clapp

Councillor Dick Jones said the council had been impressed with what Parkwood had delivered since taking on the theatres last April.

He said: “There has been lots of fantastic feedback and the panto was a massive hit. I’m very pleased we were able to get the theatres back up and running so quickly and that we can continue to keep them open while we work to secure a long term operator.”

The report said Parkwood had agreed in principal to staying on at the same rate, but requested enough time to run another full pantomime programme.

Tony Doherty, managing director of Parkwood Creative, said: “Parkwood Theatres are pleased that we have been able to make a significant contribution to the communities of North Devon by bringing The Queens and Landmark Theatres back to life.

“Theatregoers are responding well to our offer which encourages us that both venues have vibrant futures as long as that support continues. Clearly working within the parameters of a short term extension to the existing temporary contract means that we are curtailed in providing any long term investment, and also that slightly less risk has to be taken in programming shows.

“However despite that we have built a strong programme at The Queens, and The Landmark will now see more shows and a return of the live film programme as we move into 2018.

“The contract extension also takes us through this years pantomime which in December will be a stunning production of Peter Pan at The Queens Theatre. We received stunning feedback over last years show Beauty and the Beast so we encourage your readers to take up the early bird offers for Peter Pan.

“The financial success of pantomime is the bedrock for most UK theatres, if the community supports the pantomime the town’s theatre tends to have a real chance of long term success.”