Founders Theatre to close as an interim measure
1st March, 2016
Hamilton’s Founders Theatre has been forced to close on an interim basis because of safety concerns around the Theatre’s flying system.
Hamilton City Council Chief Executive Richard Briggs made the decision today after experts advised the theatre’s ageing system poses a risk to staff, performers and the general public.
The flying system, first installed in 1962, holds things like production lights, drapes, scenery, and stage effects above the stage using ropes, pulleys and weights. It also holds the fire safety curtain.
An independent health and safety report assessed that there was a likely risk of the flying system failing at some point in time. It cannot be easily fixed or replaced without requiring other major work to the 54-year old theatre.
Briggs said he knew his decision would “create short-term challenges” for 25 groups booked to use the theatre, along with other regular users and ticket-holders. But he had to do the right thing, he said.
“This is hugely disappointing for everyone – I know that. But we must, and will, put staff and public safety first. We simply have no choice,” he said.
Council staff were already working with groups, who had booked the theatre, to find new venues. They included Hamilton Operatic staff and performers who were rehearsing for ‘Mary Poppins’.
“We have already been in contact with Hamilton Operatic and many others and we’re working with those groups individually to see what can be done. Staff are upset about this as well and are working as hard as they can to help make alternative arrangements.”
“Where possible, new venues would be advised as soon as they were confirmed on ticketek.co.nz or founderstheatre.co.nz” he said, “but this may take some days”. He asked ticket holders to be patient and hold onto their tickets until new venues were confirmed.
Briggs said he accepted the closure was sudden but said it was well known Founders Theatre needed major work to bring it up to a standard where it could host modern performances. Work had been done on the flying system in 2010 and 2014 to extend its life, he said.
“The staff have done an incredible job to keep it going. But Founders is now 54-years old and band-aid solutions won’t work anymore. The Council has already allocated $16.4m (inflated adjusted figure from $13.8 million) in its 10 Year Plan for a major refurbishment but this is going to require a re-think of what comes next.”
A comprehensive report will go to Council later this month outlining potential options.
Briggs said Council was still working through the legal implications of closing but acknowledged the Council might be liable for some costs associated with bookings.
“Our prime focus until now has been focusing on safety concerns.”
For more information please refer to the frequently asked questions alternatively call Founders Theatre on 07 838 6600 if you have any other concerns.