THE council has pledged to consider ‘all options’ for the future of the Haymarket theatre, after questions have been raised about who should run it when the current lease expires next year.

The historic cultural landmark on Wote Street is owned by the council and currently operated by Anvil Arts.

However, at a full council meeting last week, the cabinet was called upon to outline how it would give “due consideration” to all interested parties when the agreement expires in March 2022.

Cllr John Mckay (Lib Dems, Eastrop & Grove) said: “The Haymarket theatre is undeniably a valuable cultural community asset and essential to the arts in Basingstoke and to the regeneration of the Top of Town. With the current funding and management arrangement having less than a year to run, it’s time to ensure all options for the future are considered.”

Cllr McKay cited the recently formed New Horseshoe Theatre Company which has expressed interest in running the venue, with member and long-serving theatre volunteer Hannah Williams previously telling the Gazette that she hopes it could be an opportunity to “breathe a new lease of life” into the more than 150 year old venue.

“It’s the people that want to use that building that are particularly interested in saving it," she said.

Cllr McKay continued: “Can the portfolio holder confirm that due consideration will be given to the New Horseshoe, The Anvil Trust and all other parties that may be interested in operating the Haymarket?”

Responding, Cllr Simon Bound, cabinet member for communities, planning and infrastructure, said: ““I agree we should consider all options given the importance of this wonderful venue in the borough's cultural offer.”

He continued: “The first stage is to understand the level of interest from all organisations.

“We will be interested to hear ideas on how organisations could work in partnership, for example so smaller local groups could benefit from the expertise of the larger.”

Cllr Bound said that this consultation stage will begin shortly and that members will be given an update in the Autumn.

Cllr Mckay added: “I welcome that all organisations that could reliably bid to run this place will be considered, particularly the reference to smaller groups who often need two to three years to plan, and uncertainty is a problem to those groups.”

With this in mind, Cllr McKay enquired as to whether “contingencies” are in place, should the process take longer than the March 2022 deadline.

Cll Bound said that he would be speaking to the new chair of trustees at Anvil Arts, Chris Smith, to gain answers to these questions.