SINGERS, actors and dancers are overjoyed after a council changed its plans to cut the number of seats by half as part of a theatre’s renovation.
Multi-million pound plans to revamp Ferneham Hall in Fareham were announced by the borough council back in June and included the theatre’s main auditorium being cut from 700 seats to 408 as well as two auditoriums, one which would have a screen and projector, community rooms and a dance studio.
But following a consultation with both the public and groups who hire the space, the number of seats will increase to 800.
Nick Williams from the South Downe Musical Society said: ‘From our point of view it’s a very welcome decision.
‘We had voiced our concerns to the council about reducing the capacity along with other societies and subsequently they have listened and amended their plans.’
The council undertook a survey prior to the announcement which showed less than half of the 700 seats were filled for performances but evidence from the consultation showed industry experts and potential operators felt having 800 seats would make shows more profitable and would attract higher quality shows.
Nick added: ‘Changing the seating from 450 to 800, very simply, will mean the difference between a production being financially viable or not.
‘In turn, this will result in higher quality performances and professional companies will feel inclined to have Fareham as one of their go-to touring destinations.
‘We now have a wonderful opportunity to perform in a professional venue and hopefully it will allow us to grow as a society - bringing bigger and better shows to the area.’
Councillor Connie Hockley was delighted the council agreed to the seat increase during an executive meeting.
Cllr Hockley said: ‘I am ecstatic that this has been approved. We need a community facility and I will be on about it until it happens and it is built.’
Matt Swann from Fareham Musical Society also agreed that the increased audience numbers would draw bigger professional shows to the area but was worried about the smaller local groups.
He said: ‘For youth theatre groups like ours (FMSYT) it will make it tough for us to use the theatre for productions as naturally the bigger the capacity the larger the hire fee will be.
‘I would like to think that the council and the theatre will be coming up with some kind of "youth theatre" discount to encourage young people to take part in the arts in their local area.
He added: ‘Our group has been going for three years and is building a good reputation around the local area however it would be difficult for us to sell 800 seats for every performance.’