A LONG-SERVING Basingstoke theatre volunteer has said the council’s decision to cut funding for the Anvil Arts could be an opportunity to breathe new life into the historic Haymarket theatre.

Hannah Williams, who was marketing officer at the Haymarket Theatre for ten years and remains a volunteer for the Market Chambers Performers Together organisation, told The Gazette she would like to see the £400,000 cut from Anvil Arts used to reinstate the autonomy of the Wote Street venue.

Talking about the combining of the venues under the one umbrella in 2007, she said: “The council had this idea in which they decided to give a pot of money to Anvil Arts. It was a good idea to them at the time, but I had misgivings at the start.

“When I was there, the place was thriving, but over the years it has become the ‘Cinderella’ venue.”

Mrs Williams said she is working with many people, including local arts groups, the Mayor of Basingstoke Cllr Diane Taylor, and Maria Miller MP, to “do things differently” in the future.

Anvil Arts CEO Matthew Cleaver recently told The Gazette he would do ‘everything in his power’ to save the Haymarket venue from closing when its lease expires next year. However, Mrs Williams has a different suggestion.

“[Anvil Arts] have not been able to share their time and ideas. The money all went in one pot,” she continued.

“No theatre can exist on just children’s shows, and those shows are bought in anyway. It worries me, and I just see a different way of doing it. The council have been incredibly generous, they have. And if anyone says otherwise they do not know the half of it,” she said.

The Market Chambers Performers Together currently runs half of the Haymarket building, and is entirely staffed by volunteers. Mrs Williams proposes allowing the group to run the full venue, with a paid staff of six people.

“With a situation like this, we need to look at what works and then give it a 21st Century twist,” she said.

“It’s the people that want to use that building that are particularly interested in saving it.”