Helen Grant, Member of Parliament for Maidstone and The Weald, has committed to doing everything she can to protect the future of the Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone.
The theatre, which opened in 1955, has been earmarked for closure by Maidstone Borough Council’s Economic Regeneration and Leisure Committee. Its doors have been closed for much of 2020, due to the Coronavirus restrictions, but it has not yet benefitted from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund which is designed to help theatres bounce back from the Coronavirus crisis.
Mrs Grant met with representatives from the theatre and Maidstone Borough Council last week. She is now calling on the Council to pause its decision to mothball the theatre to allow all interested parties time to explore what alternative support might be available.
The MP has also been in contact with Caroline Dinenage MP, the Culture Minister, and the Arts Council to request urgent meetings to consider what financial assistance could be made available to the Hazlitt.
Commenting on the issue, Helen said:
‘I am hugely worried about the potential closure of the Hazlitt Theatre and I’m committed to doing everything I can to protect its future.
The Hazlitt is at the beating heart of Maidstone. Its contribution to our local economy is substantial and will be needed more than ever as we seek to recover from the Coronavirus crisis next year. But this is about more than money. The Hazlitt is central to the fabric of our town. Its productions, workshops and youth theatre clubs bring joy to so many people and it is a venue which is cherished by us all. It is crucial that Maidstone, as the County Town of Kent, retains this important cultural asset.
We must therefore do everything possible to save it from closure. I do, of course, understand the financial challenges that Maidstone Borough Council are facing, however I am asking them to pause their decision to earmark the theatre for closure and to give us some time. This would allow us to explore what other funding options might be available to support the venue.
I am already working with Parkwood Leisure, who operate the theatre, to engage with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council to consider what funding might be available to support the Hazlitt through this hugely testing period.’