Ballymena Borough could show Bedford Borough and @davethemayor how to invest in the arts


Once more I am in Bedford. This is becoming quite a habit. As I was walking up Silver Street, I noticed a banner for the Bedfordshire Festival of Music Speech and Dance, mentioned it to Peter, and was told that he didn’t know where or even if the Festival’s Disabled classes were going to be held.

You’ve guessed it, it’s the Civic Theatre closure by Dave the Mayor that has buggered it up for them. Where else will the organisers–presumably all volunteers like those who organise the Ballymena Festival (of which I am a member and assist the Membership Secretary, my mother)–to gather 200 wheelchairs in one room?

The answer appears to be that Class 343 Special Schools Creative Performance any age will now take place in St Paul’s Church. It really doesn’t seem like the Mayor thought this one through when he made his ruling that the Civic Theatre was to become a OneStopShop.

As I am in England this weekend, I missed the Final Gala night of the Ballymena Festival in the wonderful new building. Ballymena Borough Council invested in a fine new Arts Centre which incorporates the original auditorium in the Town Hall and the old Minor Hall in new much improved performance spaces, which together with the professional door staff and the many rooms available for volunteers to get a cup of coffee and a rest makes it one of the best Arts Centres in Northern Ireland. There is also a local museum in the complex. Perhaps the two Borough Councils could have visits to each other to see how the other does things? I wonder which would appear to be the best.

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