Dear Editor,

The Haymarket is a valuable cultural asset. It is central, with easy parking, good access to public transport, disabled access, two bars, a kitchen, restaurant, and a stage – all currently under-utilised.

It has potential as a day-and-night-time cultural space, which should play a key role in the top of town regeneration strategy in the light of catastrophic retail collapse.

I suggest separating the Haymarket from the Anvil to create a new organisation.

As an arts centre, the Haymarket should be a space for local performers, voluntary societies, amateur dramatics, and professional dramatics; a place where choirs can sing, where schools can showcase talent, hold school performances and proms, where colleges can celebrate graduations, a place to celebrate festivals, hold meetings, conferences or watch films, have birthday parties, anniversaries; a place to get married, play bingo or bridge.

It should be a specialist music venue, a nightclub, host film and literary festivals. It is a stage for drama, poetry nights, comedy and dance. It should host professional touring productions, a venue for Proteus and local productions, children’s theatre, craft demonstrations, a platform for local societies.

The Haymarket should be an art gallery, supporting a programme of artists in residence.

It should certainly maximise revenue from the café, restaurant, cocktail bar and pre-show dinner facility.

The new Haymarket will need political and economic support, sponsors, patrons and advocates, critical friends, comparators, a pro-active board and a manager who can prompt audience development encouraging sponsorship from business, individuals, grant-giving trusts, Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

We have an opportunity for a re-invented, dynamic Haymarket Arts Centre, becoming a central part of the expanding town’s cultural offer, similar to schemes in Andover and Stockport.

Or the Haymarket becomes yet more apartments or retail outlets.

Phil Howe BA (Hons) FHEA FRSA, Chequers Road, Basingstoke