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New crisis threatens Whitehall Theatre

March 27 2013

The Whitehall Theatre in Dundee has been plunged into a new crisis after the resignation of former Lord Provost John Letford, chairman of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, along with the trust’s treasurer Alex Scott. The pair departed after a bitter row over the trust’s failure to back Mr Letford on crucial restructuring plans and future fundraising efforts, despite his “phenomenal” efforts to keep the historic theatre alive. A Courier source said the resignations would significantly harm the theatre’s ability to move forward and could even have a fatal effect on its future viability. Mr Letford confirmed his resignation last night. However, he declined to go into the reasons behind his shock departure. Kenny Christie, vice-chairman of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, said: “We can confirm that it was with deep regret that the fellow Whitehall Theatre trustees accepted the resignations of chairman John Letford and treasurer Alex Scott. “We recognise the invaluable contribution particularly John has made to the Whitehall Theatre during his period as chairman. The Whitehall Theatre Trust continues to move forward positively together with our partners in Dundee City Council and Leisure and Culture Dundee. “The ongoing development and investment in the much-loved Whitehall Theatre continues with the support of local patrons, musical societies and community groups. We look forward to continuing in this new period of success in the weeks and months ahead, developing strong, open relationships.” The source has told The Courier the shock resignations have cast new doubts over the future of the theatre. For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Courier or try our digital edition.


John Letford has ‘genuine fear’ for future of Whitehall Theatre

March 28 2013

The trustees of Whitehall Theatre “lack ambition”, it has been claimed. Former Dundee Lord Provost John Letford says his shock resignation as chairman of the trust was because the trustees refused to back his leadership and added he has a “genuine fear” for the theatre’s future. That was due, he said, to the trust’s refusal to agree that the theatre board needed to bring in business professionals to drive the venue forward in a businesslike manner. The trust had previously rejected a proposal by Mr Letford and treasurer Alex Scott who has also resigned to give £1,000 of the £27,000 youth theatre fund to support the Dundee Scout Gang Show. Mr Letford said the move amounted to a vote of no confidence in the two men. He said: “The donation I proposed to the Scouts was turned down, even though a donation was given some years ago to the Education Schools Music Theatre of £20,000. “I duly resigned because of their lack of confidence in my leadership and I have had to apologise to the people who supported me with some £100,000 in donations, which has all gone on the refurbishment of the theatre thankfully. “I have a genuine fear for the theatre in the long term because of a lack of ambition and the failure of the trust members to accept the fact that more qualified members are required to take the theatre forward.” Kenny Christie, vice-chairman of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, declined to comment on Mr Letford’s views and said the board members would simply reiterate Tuesday’s statement that they deeply regretted accepting the resignations. Mr Christie said: “The Whitehall Theatre Trust continues to move forward positively together with our partners in Dundee City Council and Leisure and Culture Dundee.” Lord Provost Bob Duncan, who is chairman of Leisure and Culture Dundee, said the refurbishments at the theatre were “phenomenal” and John Letford had “left the theatre with a great legacy”.


‘We have a record we can all be proud of’ sadness at sudden closure of Whitehall Theatre

August 15 2011

Theatre-goers have been told the final curtain has come down on the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee. The board of the charitable company running the theatre has announced the closure, stating it is insolvent, has gone into liquidation and has closed with immediate effect. Helen Wylie, chairman of Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Ltd, the charitable company charged with operating the theatre the building is owned by the Whitehall Theatre Trust said it was a "sad day for everyone." "Our staff have lost their jobs and we are very upset for them," Ms Wylie said. "We would like to reassure the public that all ticket money for pre-booked shows is held in a special trust bank account and will not be lost." The closure comes despite a strong autumn programme for the theatre, with planned shows featuring comedians Jim Davidson and Ed Byrne, the Lady Boys of Bangkok and Scottish duo Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham. However a decline in the number of quality touring shows, plus a matching reduction in the popularity of its baseline amateur productions most notably Sounds Spectacular and The Gang Show at a time when costs have escalated, have caused the death knell for the company, she added. The cancellation of shows during the harsh winter also contributed to the company's problems. Theatre bosses had been involved in behind-the-scenes meetings as they tried to secure the future of the venue, but those attempts have now failed. Mrs Wylie said: "The company has run the theatre for 28 years without any public subsidy and a few years ago spearheaded a successful fund-raising campaign to allow them to renovate the auditorium. "The various amateur companies that own the building through the trust contributed over the years to the operation and maintenance of Dundee's largest theatre, which brought pleasure to thousands every year. "In recent times however, the ever-increasing costs of utilities, insurance and maintenance of the old building have made trading more difficult. Neither have most of the amateur companies been able to sell the amount of seats they used to. "Over the past 12 months, a number of factors have combined the poor economic situation generally, the cancellation of shows last winter and the decline in the number of quality touring shows." Continued... "The well-known annual fund-raising show Sounds Spectacular, on which the theatre relied, had to be cancelled in June and this has put enormous strain on the finances. Work was put into a reconstruction plan in the spring, but we were unable to move forward with this due to lack of funding. "A final meeting between the board and the trustees was held, at which the board directors were told that the trust had decided they could not come to the aid of the company, leaving no alternative but liquidation." Ms Wylie thanked everyone for their efforts to keep the company going over 28 years, the volunteers and directors past and present, the theatre club and the help given by the trustees over that period. "We have a record we can all be proud of and we just hope a way can be found to bring the building alive again," she said. It is understood the trust is considering how the theatre can be relaunched and discussions with council representatives have taken place. A city council spokesman said: "The council discusses issues with a range of organisations in the city on a regular basis." The Whitehall has been welcoming people through its doors since 1928 when it first opened as the Alhambra cinema. The building shut its doors in 1968 but was reopened the following year as the Whitehall Theatre. Since that time, the Whitehall has hosted some of the most famous and sometimes the most controversial names in British showbiz. Among the headline acts to take to the stage have been comedians Frank Carson, Jim Davidson and Fred MacAulay as well as singers Sidney Devine and Tony Christie who celebrated his song Is This The Way To Amarillo hitting No 1 while performing at the theatre. Kids' favourites the Singing Kettle have been a regular fixture at the Whitehall over the years and the theatre also plays hosts to the annual Scout Gang Show. Dundee Schools Music Theatre and various local amateur dramatic societies including Dundee Operatic, Downfield Musical Society and Thomson Leng Music Theatre have also used the Whitehall, along with various community dance groups. Dundee Operatic was due to perform Chess at the Whitehall this year but the show was cancelled on two occasions. The Whitehall has a capacity of more than 700 and it is understood some local dramatic societies have been looking at smaller venues elsewhere such as the newly-revamped Gardyne Theatre.

Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


Answer to Whitehall Theatre’s woes may be just an arm’s length away

September 2 2011

How about this for a show? Me and My Girl and My Arm's-Length External Organisation. It may not trip lightly off the tongue, but it could point the way to a secure future for the Whitehall Theatre in Dundee following the collapse of the company that ran it. As Dundee Schools Music Theatre opened their production of Me and My Girl on Thursday the first show since the company's financial woes emerged the city council announced it was looking at the possibility of stepping in. Following discussions with the trust that owns the Bellfield Street building, it has made a proposal for day-to-day operations to become its responsibility and that of its offshoot Leisure and Culture Dundee. Details have still to be finalised, but officials plan to present a report to councillors at a special meeting before the end of September. Leisure and Culture Dundee was spun off from the council earlier this year with the aim of saving around £400,000 in rates. It has charitable status and is responsible for running venues such as the Olympia leisure centre, the McManus, the Caird Hall, libraries and two public golf courses. Such arms-length external organisations have become increasingly popular among local authorities. A council spokesman said: "Trustees from the Whitehall Theatre Trust and representatives of local amateur dramatic and musical societies met with senior officers of the city council to discuss the future of the Whitehall Theatre. "Whitehall Theatre Trust would continue to own and maintain the theatre, and a proposal was discussed that would see the city council and Leisure and Culture Dundee manage and administer the facility. The proposal is at an early stage and will be further developed during September." Meanwhile theatre-goers made their way to Thursday's opening performance. Around 400 tickets sold for the show, proving the theatre remains a draw to audiences.


Whitehall Theatre Trust says the show must go on, despite operating company’s liquidation

August 16 2011

The fate of the Whitehall Theatre is shrouded in mystery after claims that the final curtain had fallen were disputed. The trust that owns the theatre has claimed that a series of scheduled performances will take place this autumn after its operating company went into liquidation. Derek Shaw, chairman of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, has stated his belief that the troubled venue will reopen within weeks despite Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Ltd, the charitable trust that dealt with the day-to-day running of the auditorium, closing. Mr Shaw claims that a volunteer-run theatre would reopen, allowing the venue to remain available for schools, amateur dramatics societies as well as touring performers. Claiming the theatre could be hosting shows as early as next month, he said: "There is a lot of goodwill for the theatre and many people have come forward offering their help and support. Our target is to be open for September 1 when Dundee Schools Music Theatre will put on the planned show, Me and My Girl. "We have a duty to put this show on as hundreds of young people have been working for nearly a year and the theatre is for them and local societies. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us. However, with all the goodwill and offers of help we have received, the show must go on." It is understood that cash from future ticket sales has not been lost with the firm's collapse but refunds are not expected to be immediately available. Mr Shaw said the liquidators would have to be given the space to do their work but added that it was the trust's intention to honour all tickets sold. West End councillor Richard McCready has expressed his sadness at the troubles faced by the historic theatre, adding that he intends to meet representatives from the venue. "I am sorry to see that the Whitehall Theatre might close," he said. "Dundee needs a variety of cultural activities and I would be disappointed if we lost the Whitehall Theatre. "I know that these are tough times in the world of business and for the council but I will be looking to see if we can find any ways in which the council could assist the theatre in order to keep it running." Fellow ward councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "It is reassuring to learn that, despite the difficulties of the theatre company and the liquidation decision, the Whitehall Theatre Trust has signalled its intention to keep the theatre open."


John Letford appeals for city’s help to give Whitehall Theatre a future

January 28 2012

Significant funding will be required to restore an ''iconic'' Dundee theatre, the man charged with resolving its future this week admitted. Lord Provost John Letford has appealed to the people of the city to show their support for the Whitehall Theatre, either financially or by other means, following a torrid 2011 for the historic building. Mr Letford, speaking as chairman of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, believes the theatre could easily become a focal point in the city once again after Dundee City Council and Leisure and Culture Dundee stepped in to save the venue late last year. Backed by what he called a ''formidable'' trio of organisations, Mr Letford is now turning to the public of Dundee to guarantee a long-term future for the theatre. He told The Courier: ''I was never in entertainment but the theatre has become a bit of an obsession. A lot of finance is required to make sure that the theatre is fit for purpose and we are trying to raise funds for that. ''I have sent out letters as chairman of the trust asking for assistance. We had a lot of people offering their support when there was trouble and now I am asking them to help.'' Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Ltd, the charitable trust that dealt with day-to-day operations at the venue, went into liquidation in August leaving the building's owner, the Whitehall Theatre Trust, seeking assistance from elsewhere. In November, after members of its policy and resources committee heard the theatre had a financially viable future, Dundee City Council agreed a one-year pilot to keep the site open with Leisure and Culture Dundee taking on responsibility for ticketing and box office services. Although unable to provide an exact amount, it is thought that a six-figure sum would be required to restore the building to its former glory. While Mr Letford is hopeful that a grant for lottery funding can be made in the near future, he is aware the onus lies with the trust in sustaining the Whitehall. ''It's the people's theatre and is an iconic building,'' he continued. ''The Whitehall Theatre will be run for people across the city. That will pave the way for a us to apply for a lottery grant. ''Dundee City Council will be able to assist us with that but that application will be made by the trust. But we will also have to step up to the oche and raise funds ourselves.'' Mr Letford has an association with the theatre going back almost 30 years and he is well aware that its future will depend on bringing people through its doors. Some former patrons are understood to be owed refunds from shows cancelled throughout the turbulent recent months and while unable to offer concrete news of when everyone will receive their money back, Mr Letford insists they have not been forgotten about. ''We're working really hard as this is a real community issue,'' he added. ''The responsibility may lie elsewhere but I want these people to come back. I have sent out letters as chairman of the trust asking for assistance.''


Whitehall Theatre customers told they should expect 75% refunds

February 9 2012

Ticket-holders left out of pocket following the closure of a Dundee theatre last year are to receive partial refunds. The Whitehall Theatre Trust has confirmed those with tickets for cancelled shows will receive 75% of their money back following an agreement with the liquidator for the previous operating company. The closure of the Whitehall Theatre last summer prompted the cancellation of a number of productions, with those who had purchased tickets concerned as to whether they would see their money again. The trust, which has spearheaded a relaunch of the venue, has secured funds which are set to be distributed to those who missed out on their entertainment. It claims the 75% deal is better than might have been expected. A statement said: ''The trust have successfully secured an agreement with the liquidator of Whitehall Theatre Dundee Ltd. that will enable the funds to be transferred to the trust, allowing us to refund a proportion of the monies paid. ''Had the trust failed to secure this agreement the costs from the liquidator to administer these debts would have substantially reduced the sum available," said a statement from the trust. ''The trust's current estimate of the debts compared to the funds available would indicate a refund of approximately 75% of the published ticket price. Any shortfall in the money due to any individual or company could be submitted to the liquidator as an unsecured claim but the trust has been advised that there is no prospect of a dividend being paid to any class of creditor in the liquidation.'' Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Ltd went into liquidation in August, leaving the building's owner, the Whitehall Theatre Trust, seeking assistance from elsewhere. In November, after members of its policy and resources committee heard the theatre had a financially viable future, Dundee City Council agreed a one-year pilot to keep the site open with Leisure and Culture Dundee taking on responsibility for ticketing and box office services. Trust treasurer Alex Scott expects as many as 90 people to seek refunds. ''These things take time to resolve and it's only in the last ten days that we've been able to see movement from the liquidator,'' he told The Courier. ''This culminated in contact on Monday when I got an email saying that they will transfer money to us. ''Given the state of records I just want to make sure that we have got all the claimants and are giving everybody the chance to come forward. The money that we get is the money that we will disperse and any costs that we have we will swallow as a trust for the goodwill of the public.'' The trust hopes to start the repayment process shortly and is asking claimants to make themselves known. They are asked to provide evidence of their ticket purchase and to contact treasurer Alex Scott directly. The address is: Whitehall Theatre Trust, 12 Bellfield Street, Dundee, DD1 5JA.


Whitehall Theatre Trust holds talks in bid to save venue

August 25 2011

The Whitehall Theatre Trust has held confidential talks in a bid to secure the future of the popular Dundee venue. Chairman Derek Shaw said the trust also plans to regain possession of the theatre for the first time since its management company went into liquidation. He said the trust has voluntarily allowed the liquidator free access to the building and agreed to meet his fees, in a bid to move matters along. The theatre is owned by the trust but its day-to-day operations were handled by a charitable company, Whitehall Theatre (Dundee) Ltd, which collapsed 10 days ago. Taking back the theatre was simply a formality, Mr Shaw said. "We do own the building and could have gone in at any time but we are doing it this way to get things moving," he said. "The other reason is that by doing it this way former employees of the company will get a better deal because it is all registered with the appropriate government departments. "There are moveable assets and stocks which belong to the company and have to be valued and we have gone along with that," he continued. "The liquidator works for the creditors and has to make sure to get the best value and hopefully we will agree on the costs. "Whatever happens, the show must go on and the Dundee Schools Music Theatre production of Me and My Girl will definitely open at the Whitehall on September 1."'Delicate'Though cautiously optimistic about the outcome, Mr Shaw said he could not reveal the identities of the parties taking part in Wednesday's rescue talks. "It's quite a delicate thing at the moment," he added. An energetic campaign to save the Whitehall Theatre was set up almost as soon as the shock news of the management company's insolvency was made public. The cause has attracted considerable support locally as well as winning the backing of high-profile fans of the venue, including comedian Jim Davidson who pledged to perform his scheduled show at the theatre next month for free if need be. The company's difficulties have been put down to escalating costs coupled with a decline in the number of quality touring shows and the falling popularity of amateur productions, such as Sounds Spectacular and The Gang Show, which were previously the theatre's bread and butter.


One-year trial of scheme to safeguard future of Whitehall Theatre

November 29 2011

Dundee councillors have backed a one-year pilot scheme to keep the Whitehall Theatre open. As part of the arrangement, the city council will spend £30,000 to pay for a duty manager to help run the venue. The education department will also commit to booking it for shows by Dundee Schools Music Theatre. Ticketing and box office services and liaison with promoters will be carried out by Leisure and Culture Dundee, the council's arms-length organisation. The future of the theatre was placed in jeopardy when its operating company went into receivership in August, partly owing to a fall in the number of commercial productions it was able to attract. The trust that owns the building has since been striving to ensure its survival. In discussions with the council, the trust provided details of theatre finances and estimates of its likely income and spending. A report to the policy and resources committee explained: ''Based on these projections and the commitments received from local potential users, including the education department, it is the council's opinion that the theatre is a financially viable option.'' Under the pilot scheme the trust will continue to own the building and be responsible for ensuring it is fit for purpose. It will see it pay for an immediate programme of health and safety work. Further surveys of the building are due to be carried out over the next two weeks to see if any further medium- to long-term works are needed. Leisure and Culture Dundee will provide a booking agent service to handle bookings by professional and amateur shows for 2012. It will also assist the trust in the promotion of the theatre. In addition to paying for the duty manager, the city council will advise the trust as it develops a long-term business plan. This will include looking at what operational model the Whitehall should adopt to try to keep afloat financially. The report explained: ''When the venue was first established, it was envisaged that the Whitehall Theatre would become the focal point for amateur dramatic groups in the city. As such, its programming has traditionally not competed with either the Caird Hall or Dundee Rep. ''Latterly, to try and ensure its viability, the range and diversity of commercial shows was expanded. While initially successful as a strategy, this has contributed to the exposure of the operating company to financial risks and, in part, accounts for its insolvency.'' The education department may also use the theatre as an additional venue for music education. Lord Provost John Letford, who is a member of the theatre trust, said the pilot would be a ''first but giant step'' towards the Whitehall's future and he hoped that everyone connected with it would be ''thrilled and excited'' at the prospect of it returning to its former glory. He told councillors: ''Let the curtain rise on a new beginning for the benefit of the people of this city.'' West End councillor Fraser Macpherson sought assurances that the ''army of volunteers'' who help to run the theatre would still be able to contribute. He was told by council chief executive David Dorward that as much use as possible would be made of this ''unique'' resource. Labour group leader Kevin Keenan said it was important the council did its best to try to keep the theatre open in ''very difficult times'' and he wondered what, beyond the pilot, would be done to aid its long-term survival. SNP administration leader Ken Guild said: ''We will be working closely with the trust to ensure that the Whitehall is able to return to a secure footing.''