Kingston’s new Conservative council leader has said the Rose Theatre “has to learn to stand on its own feet” instead of relying on council funding.
Former Rose artistic director Stephen Unwin tweeted during last week’s election count: “God help the Rose if the Tories win!”
@kingstonnewsed God help the Rose if the Tories win!— Stephen Unwin (@RoseUnwin) May 22, 2014
Defeated Liberal Democrat leader Liz Green also claimed the Rose was now under threat.
Councillor Kevin Davis, who was chosen after the party’s win, said Kingston Council had already left the Rose “quite a big legacy” – which amounts to £500,000 a year until 2016.
His predecessor revealed the details of the Rose's service level agreement with the council and Kingston University earlier this year.
Coun Davis said: “I’m not a believer in never-ending subsidies for things. It has to learn to stand on its own feet.
“The Rose Theatre’s destiny is in its hands.
“The direction that the leadership of the Rose is taking is probably the right direction.
“I don’t expect to be breaking any existing contracts. I want the Rose to survive and thrive. I’m a great fan of the arts and I think they have got an enormous amount to give to the culture of Kingston.
“I would be very worried about the Rose being seen as the only artistic and cultural aspect of Kingston. We have taken no decisions about that.”
Coun Davis has returned to the council after losing his seat in 2006.
Since then he has run for Parliament both in Kingston and Yeovil, where he also campaigned for Conservative council hopefuls, and contributed to London Mayor Boris Johnson’s 2012 campaign.
The Kingston Theatre Trust posted a loss of more than £200,000 in its 2012-13 accounts, partly due to poor ticket sales.
The Rose Theatre, in Kingston's High Street
But chief executive Robert O’Dowd said the 2013-14 figures looked “considerably better”, and that he agreed with Coun Davis the Rose ought to become more free-standing.
He said: “That’s the remit I was given by the board. We’re on the right trajectory.
“I’m very excited about sitting down with the new administration to understand what that means fully, over the coming years.”
Lib Dem opposition leader Coun Liz Green said: “The minute they won, the Rose was under threat in my mind.
“[Coun Davis] has been off the council for eight years. Has he read the new deal? I think we get a lot out of having it there.
“In terms of the economy of the town centre it’s vitally important.”
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