Local performers have once again written to the Chief Minister to question the "unjustified and continued delay" in repairing Jersey Opera House, which is now unlikely to reopen before September 2022.
Ryan Williams, Chair of the Performing Arts Development Group (PADG), representing Jersey’s Performing Arts clubs and associations, previously wrote to Senator John Le Fondré in June.
Here's what he had to say today...
Dear Chief Minister,
It is with regret that I feel it necessary to write to you for a second time, as Chairman of the Performing Arts Development Group (“PADG”), representing Jersey’s Performing Arts clubs and associations.
As stated in my previous letter (dated 16 June 2021), Jersey Opera House still remains in a critical situation. It has been noted that we are yet to receive a response from you. The PADG has learnt that the Jersey Opera House is unlikely to open before September 2022, with no explanation to the public as to why this is the case. The PADG and the wider community are totally unaware as to what progress has been made in repairing Jersey Opera House to ensure it can re-open safely and as soon as possible.
Pictured: Mr Williams said members of the PADG have questioned whether Government cares about Jersey Opera House.
Members of the PADG and the local community have questioned “if the Government cares about the Jersey Opera House” and “if they’re genuinely concerned”. Do you care about the Jersey Opera House? Jersey’s Government needs to recognise that the local Performing Arts and Events industries need the Opera House to be fully functional as quickly as possible. As stated in my previous letter, we are aware of the challenges that Covid-19 presented to our community.
However, we are confident that, if we work together, the local community will be able to see Jersey Opera House open before September 2022. Currently, like many Islanders, we are extremely frustrated at the lack of urgency from the Government of Jersey to reopen the theatre.
In a verbal response to our original letter, Deputy Morel attended a BBC Radio Jersey interview on 23 June 2021. The Minister explained that an exemption had been applied for to bypass this protracted process which would allow things to move quickly for the Jersey Opera House. Deputy Morel further explained that this request was rejected by the Treasury Department. I wrote to Deputy Pinel to gain clarity on this point, to which she responded that she would “ask officers to investigate any delays which may be occurring”.
Pictured: Ryan Williams, Chair of the Performing Arts Development Group (PADG).
The Jersey Opera House has seemingly been deemed unworthy of regular funding for necessary maintenance repairs in recent years. It is disappointing that a lengthy process is ‘required’ to enable the Jersey Opera House to reopen following the emergency repairs.
This unjustified and continued delay has caused many local clubs and associations’ financial burdens resulting from costs attributed to the on-going uncertainty faced by the theatre. I would like to stress that, due to this continued delay, there are already profound consequences for the local Arts organisations, the local economy, and the cultural and mental well-being of Islanders with approximately 70,000 people visiting the Jersey Opera House every year.
With events no longer possible at Fort Regent, and maintenance works also due at Jersey Arts Centre as part of the Fiscal Stimulus, the Island may find itself in a challenging situation. With our community emerging from a period of restriction and uncertainty, the access to Arts and Culture is needed more than ever, which includes out Jersey Opera House.
I am aware that the Government of Jersey is formulating a ‘positive’ plan for the future of the Jersey Opera House, however we now approach two years of closure without any plans being revealed. The Government of Jersey has not effectively communicated with the community, which is being seen a lack of understanding and urgency for the Jersey Opera House to reopen. We believe that the Government should support the physical and cultural well-being of islanders. Any council in UK would love to have a theatre like the Jersey Opera House. It is vital that the necessary work is completed without delay.
With this in mind, I would be most grateful if you could clarify the situation regarding the Jersey Opera House and reassure the community by presenting draft plans and answering the 10 key questions below.
What has caused the Jersey Opera House to be closed for 2 years?
Why has there been little progress in getting the Jersey Opera House fit for purpose, 20 months after closing?
As it is now approaching 2 years since the Jersey Opera closed its doors, can you give a date for when works will be underway to commence the emergency repairs needed, and whether a project manager has been appointed?
Has the tendering process started?
Is a work schedule in place?
Who will be involved in the Government of Jersey’s plan for “the future of Jersey Opera House” and what does this mean for the local performing arts community?
When realistically do you envisage Jersey Opera House to be fully functional and open to the community?
As £87,000 has been given to sports clubs to help recover from the impacts of Covid-19, can local performing arts clubs and associations seek similar financial support, due to 2 years of financial burdens, including the closure of Jersey Opera House?
Will the Government of Jersey subsidise other performance venues for local clubs and association as a result of Jersey Opera House’s closure?
How frequently will the Government of Jersey communicate with PADG or the community to provide updates on the Jersey Opera House repairs?
I look forward to receiving a detailed response and hope to hear from you shortly.
In support of this letter are the following members of Performing Arts Development Group:
Debbie Taylor, Chair – Jersey Amateur Dramatics Club
Nick Cabot, President – Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Michael Blackie, Chairman, Jersey Eisteddfod & Jersey Gilbert & Sullivan
Alastair Walkinshaw, Co-Director – Timpanali Productions
Teresa Le Huquet, Director – Curtain Up Theatre Group
Judith Scott, Chair – Jersey Island Singers