Tamworth Arts Centre : History
Tamworth Herald – 21/09/73
A glimpse at the schedule of events in the arts this month reveals that the season has begun writes Maggie Alexander.
The possibility of an established arts centre in the town grows steadily more a reality in the minds of all who are concerned to see the promotion of cultural activities in Tamworth.
After nearly a decade of tentative enquiries and plan-submissions, all of which have been abandoned, the latest scheme to convert the Baptist Church appears to be receiving approval.
“Give us a building with sufficient space to work in, and we will build it up”, said a Little Theatre spokesman. “We don’t need the finished product if funds are short”.
The basic essential is a building in which clubs and societies can meet together without hindrance, and by close association, further their mutual interests.
Should the council give their official go-ahead to the Baptist Church plans this month, they could be providing the basis for a real artistic growth.
It is easy to point the finger of scorn at a public lack of interest in the arts. It is much more difficult to take art to the public and involve them.
There are listed in Tamworth Central Library, 14 clubs and societies described as “arts” organisations; 20 as “general” organisations; 7 related to “hobbies”; 11 related to “old people”; 19 “social” organisations and 39 “youth” organisations.
Of these clubs, seventeen come under the financial umbrella of the Arts Advisory Council.
It is the aptitude of each member of the town. It is his creative ability – however narrowly defined – that has to be aroused and nourished. Artistic creativity is a means to personal freedom.
People who may never have seen the inside of a theatre or listened to a symphony. The people of the borough who flock to the bingo halls and betting shops. They also join societies and rush to swell the numbers of the clubs in Tamworth.
It is these clubs that the Arts Advisory Council must look to as it is among these people that an arts centre must find its work.
Tamworth Herald – 05/10/73
Work is to begin in January on the conversion of Tamworth’s old Baptist Chapel into an arts centre for the town.
The Borough Council’s Leisure Activities Committee has given approval to a scheme costing £30,000 which will turn the old Baptists Church in Lower Gungate into a theatre and arts centre.
Mr. A.T. Teague one of the consultant architects for the scheme told the meeting the original estimate of £20,000 had soared because of rising building costs.
Now, formal approval of the increased cost must be given by the council’s Resources Planning Committee and the council itself.
The council, Mr. Teague said would provide a “carcass” building with a stage and basic heating, lighting and electrical systems. There would be no chairs, ceiling, carpet, curtains or black-out blinds included in the conversion costs.
“We have a scheme which is cut down to the bone and is very basic and primitive”, Mr. Teague said, “After conversion, the building will be left as a carcass for the Arts Advisory Council to take over”.
Secretary of the Arts Advisory Council, Mr. Dan Gronow, said: “This is an excellent scheme, and I am glad the council have decided to do all the major structural conversion work at one swoop”.
The theatre will eventually sear more than 100 people and will include multi-purpose rooms and catering facilities.
Originally built as a theatre in the eighteenth century, the building was later used as a malt house before being given to the Baptist Church in 1872 by Sir Robert Peel.
Tamworth Herald – 05/10/73
The sound of music is giving Tamworth Borough Council a headache.
For unless they can find a home for a disused church organ, work cannot go ahead on a redevelopment scheme.
The organ is in the former Baptist Church, Lower Gungate, and has not been used since the church moved to a new building at Belgrave earlier this year.
In January, work is due to begin on converting the old church into a theatre and arts centre – but the organ is in the way. And to move it would cost ten times as much as its value, a mere £100.
The council’s Leisure Activities Committee were told the organ could be broken up if no-one could be found to take it away. The brought a plea from Alderman Bill Newbury not to sell it for scrap.
“It is always sad to hear of these old church organs being broken up and sold after so many years.”
The committee heard that members of Edingale’s Holy Trinity Church have shown an interest in buying the organ. Now the council say they may be prepared to offer it to the church, if the members take care of its removal from the building.
“This organ is nothing but an embarrassment to use and the sooner we get rid of it the better”, Councillor Bill Holloway said.
Tamworth Herald – 30/11/73
Tamworth’s Arts Advisory Council will have to foot a bill of between £5,500 and £16,000 to turn the interior of the town’s old Baptist Church into an arts centre and theatre.
The annual running costs of the centre, estimated at £1,000 will also have to be met by the Arts Advisory Council, which receives a total grant of £2,000 a year from Tamworth Borough Council.
Deputy town clerk, Mr. Arthur Harrison told an Arts Advisory Council meeting on Thursday that consultant architect Mr. A. T. Teague had advised the borough council that interior refinements to the arts centre could cost £16,000.
Structural work due to start on the building in January, is estimated to cost the borough council £30,000.
Mr. Harrison said: “The £16,000 is Mr. Teague’s estimate of what he thinks will be needed.
“There is no time limit in which the work must be carried out. The centre can be fitted out over a period of years.”
Arts Advisory Council secretary, Mr. Dan Gronow said: “The £16,000 scheme will obviously be a long term venture and we must face up to the fact that it will be financially difficult.”
Councillor Eric Johnson, a member of the Arts Advisory Council, claimed the immediate cost of re-fitting the centre could be reduced to £5,500.
“This is a lot more within the reach of the Arts Advisory Council”, he said. “The picture is not black just dark grey”
Members agreed that the terms of the scheme should be accepted.
“It’s now or never”, said a member. “We will never get another one.”