Posted: 07.10.21 at 08:13 by Robert Miller, Oakham
The Victoria Hall has provided a unique amenity, comprising a large space with a sprung floor ballroom and fine Victorian décor for the people of Rutland for over 130 years. I can remember as a boy, exhibiting my table top garden at the produce show there in the mid 1960s and until the first lockdown was a regular attendee at the Lindy Hop and before that Ballroom dancing lessons held there. I hear that more distanced dancing and exercise classes have now started up again. To read some of the comments, one would think it has been shut for years, nothing could be further from the truth.
True the hall has been run as a quasi-business to service the wedding reception market which has seen competition from other venues, with the relaxation of the rules relating to where marriages can take place, this has caused a decline in that business but the hall’s latest (June 2020) financial statement showed their cash assets still well in balance. Perhaps now is the time to look at the way the Victoria hall is run and change it to be a true community enterprise like so many of the local village halls.
There is a real danger that the debate over the future of the Victoria Hall will descend to merely a pro/anti cinema argument, which will serve no one. I would think very few people who are against the establishment of Rutland Kino in the Victoria Hall are against the establishment of a cinema, additional to the one that currently runs in the Museum in Oakham. The issue is the sacrifice of the Victoria Hall and large space that services many
community activities on the first floor and currently supports five small local start-up businesses including a renewable energy company, various artists and food preparation, to achieve it.
The Victoria Hall is a Charity, these exist to provide services in the space commercial businesses cannot or will not work in.
To survive a charity must be run with the efficiency of
a business but it only has to balance its books and does not have the overarching impetus to provide a dividend for its shareholders a business does. It also, according to the guidance and requirements laid down by the Charity Commission, does not have the freedom to take on the level of commercial risk a business can.
Rutland Kino is a commercial start-up. These are the life blood of our society but they are also risky undertakings. It’s a sad fact that over 20% of such businesses fail in their first year and around 60% will fail within their first three years. (source fundsquire.co.uk). Start-up companies’ investors know this and are willing to take the gamble for the rewards if the venture is successful.
Rutland Kino want the Victoria Hall because it fits the image of the up-market establishment they wish to operate. This is why they do not want to operate from a purpose- built cinema located on the bypass, where they would benefit from adequate parking and access for their large projected customer throughput. What is in this for the Victoria Hall? Income from the lease of the building that their governing document specifically precludes them from redistributing. Someone to manage the day to day operation of the building and possibly depending on the demographic of the users of RK’s up-market service, a new user-base at the loss of its existing one, including the people who currently make their living in the building. The trustees are effectively investing the hall in RK all apparently without a thought that the venture is risky and if it fails will leave the hall in a parlous condition.
This is why I and many people in the town believe there should be a proper debate about this project. The agreement between The Victoria Hall and Rutland Kino came as a complete surprise to the public and users of the hall and there has been no proper consultation on the proposal. If Rutland Kino cannot find suitable commercial premises for their venture at a commercial rate then the project is not viable.
Rutland Kino’s plan represents an unacceptable risk to a charitable organisation such as the Victoria Hall.
There are also significant questions related to the inevitable damage that modification of the building would incur and how Rutland Kino would finance reversion of the building should circumstances change that has not been adequately addressed.
Good luck to Rutland Kino with their business venture, time will prove their vision right or wrong but their path to existence should not be at the cost of an existing amenity in the town.
*Nub News takes no side on this issue. Others who wish to submit an editorial type article or letter can email [email protected]
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