Star date: 3rd August 2012


Wednesday night saw the first campaign meeting to help save Lower Broughton's Victoria Theatre, listed as one of the 38 most at risk theatres in the country.

The Salford Star's Steve Speed went along to gauge the campaign and wasn't overly impressed.

Read his personal account of the meeting here…

On Wednesday night over fifty people turned up to Salford University's Robert Powell Theatre for the Save Victoria Theatre campaign meeting. `This is great' I thought, I may be missing the Olympic footy and it may be a bit of a trek up to the University but the theatre is a fantastic piece of Salford heritage in dire need of restoration. Something anyone in their right mind would support.

Ten minutes into the meeting, feeling a bit confused by the lack of vision, I was wishing I hadn't bothered…

Don't get me wrong, whoever manages to bring this fantastic building back to life should be complimented for doing so. But I can't help but feel by the way this was presented that the community is being used for the benefit of Salford University.

Like much of Central Salford there are very few remains of Lower Broughton's heritage so it is important that buildings like Victoria Theatre survive. But it isn't good enough for them just to stay up, they need to be used by Salfordians everyday to remind us of our roots.

The location of the meeting should have been enough of a warning sign that this is about developing a facility for staff and students at Salford University. But the point was hammered home towards the end of the meeting in a speech by a former student on how much students at the University need a facility like this because at the moment all their plays are performed in an 'old converted lecture theatre'.

What's wrong with that? Nothing, if the University are stumping up the cash to pay for it but it becomes clear during the meeting that this isn't the case. The idea, we are told, is that the Theatre will be a community project for local people because 'we' can get funding for that sort of thing.

One of Salford University lecturers leading the presentation told us there would be workshops, community film and theatre performances, bingo and even Tai Chi for grannies. Sounds lovely doesn't it? …I'm sorry but how many times has someone from Salford University asked the community for support for a new building or resource and then once it has been completed locked them out?

Whilst I am in full support of anyone restoring this beautiful building and putting it to use, if this is for the community why wasn't the meeting held in the community, making it easier for Salfordians to come and have their say? Clearly lots of people care about this building, it was a great turn out, but only one person said they were from Lower Broughton.

So I made the trek back home feeling a little disillusioned. Lower Broughton needs better community facilities but I can't see that happening with this group. I would be happy to see the Theatre being put to any use, so I wish them luck. But to make this a resource for Salfordians we need someone who knows the community and some body the community can trust to be leading it….

See previous Salford Star article on Victoria Theatere - click here


dave grey wrote
at 08:01:48 on 29 August 2012
See John Catterall has been at the cut and paste. Same comment on the facebook site. What is wrong with you and your handful of fellow moaners. This is a great project that you and Moulding and a few others have tried to pull to bits. The building is in need of saving from being turned into a warehouse or pulled down. Why didn't you and the rest of the moaners do something, why wait till these two men held a meeting and started the ball rolling. Find something to do with your spare time. I do hope they get the funding and show you lot up for what you are,sad weak moaning waste of spaces.
Michael Felse wrote
at 16:35:19 on 28 August 2012
One Vision - One Message - Save the Theater. If we can lend £1million to keep sport alive lets do the same for Salford arts. I love live theater and not all want to go to The Lowry. Thinking cap on Labour Council, this matter is about Salford heritage and a tribute to its people. Promise, give these "funding" and I will deffo vote Labour next year.
John Catterall wrote
at 10:34:28 on 28 August 2012
l have raised several questions on the FB site with the leadership ,,,they have gone unanswered,,,instead we get a minor unelected failed Lib Dem committee member sycophantically trying to answer of behalf of her unelected colleagues….. At the inaugural meeting there were people present who had vigour and enthusiasm and lots of ideas to make this into a campaigning group…………non of these are represented on the committee …the FB page is by the admission of the sole sycophant merely a publicity group which will be used to update the members and public what the great and the good of the unelected committee have been up to………… Meanwhile we the great “unwashed ” are being asked to fork out money to be a friend of the theatre,,,,,,,, If the left wing had acted like this with a community campaign ,the wishy washy liberals and right wing would have been up in arms calling them Stalinists and awarding committee places as “jobs for the boys”….. Meanwhile the great and the good are still refusing to answer any questions about an election…and we the true campaigners are being told by the committees mouthpiece to go away and form our own campaign committee Well ladies and gentlemen of the unelected committee be careful what you wish for…. Meanwhile you have attracted so called support for this fight to save the Vic under false pretences we trusted you at that first meeting to form a committee of people who put themselves forward for election and then come back to us with recommendations of who should carry this campaign forward and ask for a vote on the composition etc……….not write you a blank cheque to become our unelected representatives………… l will be raising my concerns at the next public meeting…………… One final point at the first meeting there was a very vocal member there called Micky Dracks …l along with a number of others expected him to be on the committee……he had ideas and visions as well as practical advice that could have pushed this out into the community ……….. unfortunately l fear he doesnt even get a mention anywhere……….perhaps he was too earthy and direct for the cheese and wine brigade who have decided to save our theatre ……meanwhile l think some of the unelected committee might be practising their acceptance speeches for their MBEs for services to the community…………………………
dave grey wrote
at 23:32:21 on 21 August 2012
Just been reading the facebook page on this fine building.why are there people moaning about who was picked for the steering group.it looks as if this group have been active in the past few weeks meeting with people and getting the ball rolling.yet there is a small group of moaning sods.why can't people be happy things are being done.are they jealous it wasnt their idea or that they were not picked nearly 2000 members and 3 moaners,that says it all.
RWL wrote
at 07:39:45 on 11 August 2012
There may be individuals at Salford University who want to help local causes, but as an organisation, I think they like to keep their goodies to themselves. In my experience, even offering them money doesn't get local people access to their facilities. "We'll call you back". Yeh, right. Best of luck with the project though. I don't know Micky Dacks but judging from what I've read, he sounds like a man who can make this work.
caroline wrote
at 20:42:55 on 08 August 2012
save the buiding frist...then in time would be a great theater for all.
J wrote
at 19:15:25 on 03 August 2012
If Salford Uni were to take it over, they could put on amateur productions and the community could go and see them? If it is to be reused as a theatre then there is limited scope because professional productions won't go anywhere near it, and there may not be enough amateur interest for it. Having the University backing is no bad thing, and bearing in mind many of their buildings are old heritage buildings. Even if it was closed to the public, I'd much prefer it to still be in use but still standing than remaining derelict with the prospect of being flattened with identikit apartments built in their place. I am backing the campaign but completely agree that it needs a clear direction. If Salford Uni do want it then they should just be honest about it.
Beryl Hawke wrote
at 16:07:48 on 03 August 2012
As a person who has lived in Lower Broughton for over 33 years may I add to this discussion. One of the first things I would like to see happen is real involvement with local residents not just loaded questionaires which tick boxes. I joined this campaign a few weeks ago but didn't know of any meeting.However the meeting location was inaccessable to the majority of us. No buses and very few cars. More information needed in future please. At present there are two Community venues who are successfully working with community to build on activities that are wanted by the them. The Naz on Great Clowes St. managed by Gwen Rolfe is one. Fit City being the second has now been taken over from the Council to provide for the community and this is led by Christine Brett and her team. The community has been thoroughly consulted by both.I am sure if the two named ladies were brought into the equation there would be beneficial progress seen. Also we have a very active Community Committee in East Salford. Anyone with a valid interest is more than welcome to attend. This is where you will find most of your community activists who will be willing to work with the Group. We have had some fantastic results with projects in the past. Dates and venues are on salford.gov.co.uk.
micky dacks wrote
at 12:22:23 on 03 August 2012
An interesting meeting it was indeed, with a varied bunch of people. One thing I don't understand is why Mr. Dewsnip has involved Equity in the campaign, when the plan for the theatre is community? Is there a hidden agenda here? Doesn't Equity represent professionals in the industry? There seemed to be a conglomerate of representatives from this corner, one of whom stated "we need a patron" to rapturous applause from the audience at the mere mention of a famous persons name. Well state the obvious...! Nothing new came out of this meeting. I'd met David on the Monday night and spilled out the majority of my ideas, all of which were repeated, almost verbatim. I think the key thing here, as per my open letter to the facebook group (And in the words of our good friend Tony from SalfordOnline) is COMMUNITY. For this project to work, it requires the backing of not just strategic partners, but LOCAL people;people of Salford, the community for which the building should serve. It was a pleasure to see local residents turn out and pledge their allegiance to the campaign, one of whom has offered her time in whatever capacity necessary. Let's get Salford EXCITED...! Then theres the amateur dramatics corner. I'm not particularly interested in the theatre's past and what great things happened there previously. If it was such a wonderful and spectacular piece of history and so many people have so many great memories....Why weren't they there when the theatre was closing and trying to rescue it? Why jumping on the bandwagon now??? There are far too many interested parties with far too many different agendas. The project required One Whole vision from the outset. Yes, the theatre is Victorian and traditional. As I've said previously, it's a London theatre in the heart of Salford. And that's the very reason it should be saved. So that the people of Salford may experience theatre, even as that once in a lifetime experience, as if visiting the West End, right on their doorstep, but not having a fortnights wages skimmed from their wallets...! Opportunity should be and can be made available from day one. This building can build a community. I'm left a little disillusioned, but for the saving grace from the attendance of Bob Howarth - lead on Hyde and Plaza theatres. Seemed to me to be the only person speaking any sense, with genuine passion and enthusiasm and the relevant experience. "We could start a global campaign" said one lady attendee as she reeled off previous projects relating to Victorian heritage. Too many do-gooding 'organisations' with their own agendas. I've seen millions thrown away and wasted in my time working with young people and communities, where no real output has been achieved. The Victoria is tangible and has great prospects. But let the wrong committee take over, and it's flawed from day one. Thank you Tony, and all the other people who have kindly suggested that I be responsible for steering/running the project. However, from experience, too any cooks do indeed spoil the broth, and in the words of Freddie Mercury, there has to only be ONE VISION. That vision is community, and I can't help but feel that, again from experience, some of those involved actually grit their teeth at the very mere mention of that truly wonderful and empowering word. Hey, I could be wrong. I'm only 
Mark Frith wrote
at 12:20:02 on 03 August 2012
They say all publicity is good publicity... is that the case with this article? I think you may have picked up the wrong end of the stick from this meeting. perhaps you are upset for missing the live Olympic footy... It is a very exciting project to be involved in and will add a lot to the area. I live in Pendleton and would certainly use the theater once restored..after all it is only a short walk away! If the University do wish to use the space for student performance then surely this will be an income stream for the project which will make is sustainable... It will be up to the local people who form the community project that will decide the use, not the university! I think you should have a chat with the people who are trying to inspire local residents and be a catalyst for their wishes before you print paranoid reports like above. you state in your profile "We showcase what's ace in the City, dig up Real Salford Heritage, give new writers and artists a chance to express themselves, and get Salford celebs to contribute…But to make the Salford Star work, most of all we need your stories… Let us know what's going off in your neighbourhood… " you are doing the opposite with this article! Mark
Trinityriverside_resident wrote
at 11:31:15 on 03 August 2012
Hello there, I am a resident from the local area and also attended the meeting. After reading your article above it seems somewhat unfair and only picking out features that where mentioned throughout the above speech. I believe the gentleman who spoke was invited as a guest speaker only supplied yet another fantastic and valid reason for this wonderful project to get off the ground. From my understanding the point was raised as to how having a building such as the Victoria would also benefit local educational centres within Salford not just the university. The point was definitely raised that having skilled people working in an accessible local institution would benefit ALL age ranges for educational purposes. Surely if you are fighting the corner of trying to renovate a community based centre then it can only be a positive aspect that the educational bodies within the area give it their backing and it be a place for primary, secondary and tertiary pupils (from the local community families!) to experience and learn things first hand within our community with other local residents? Also the gentle man did close the end of his talk asking "...Does anyone have any questions?..." and the reply was NONE at all, but instead finished with rapturous applause and the happy noddings of the people present. As a point to note here I feel it is only fair to mention the gentlemen who headed the meeting did mention other guest speakers were invited one of which I believe was stuck on a train due to technical difficulties and another due to unforeseen circumstances couldn’t make the evening... maybe the above article seems to stress on the one speaker given as he didn’t have his other counterparts to give their insights into other integral uses to the local community? Listening carefully to people present at the meeting the general consensus was that finding activities to take place in the Victoria and use it as many hours in the day as possible was paramount, meaning that involving 'your' communities local school, youth groups, learning centres and ALL age ranges should be an ideal and fitting reason to have the Victoria risen from the ashes. I would love nothing more than to see the local elderly residents happy with bingo space whilst being surrounded by pictures and artwork/photographs and work from the local children’s recent performances at the Victoria. A COMMUNITY project where ALL of the local area is taken into consideration building bridges and outreach projects between the community and educational bodies across the board. I agree that the Victoria is a beautiful piece of Salford’s history and is a very just cause to be supported by EVERYONE in the local community and I shall be offering my support in any which means necessary. Surely 'community' mean everyone in the area which includes the nearby schools (from the youngest children to those wishing to extend their education in our city and the myriad of age ranges throughout our community) so lets all work towards making this space available to the community and all its components, not just a select few.
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