I'm sure most people here will be aware the Cardiff City Council has mooted selling off both St David's Hall and the New Theatre.  I posted about this on Facebook this morning, and my post elicited several thoughtful responses, so I'm going to repost it here.  And see if the NTW community can do as well.  On Facebook I asked that my friends not lynch me: NTW community members should feel free to lynch me any time they feel like it.

"I'm just thinking aloud here, so please don't lynch me: but would it be so bad if St David's Hall was lost as a venue, and say, redeveloped as a conference centre? I love the auditorium, have enjoyed many great shows there - but the building has problems. It's a massive space. It needs to pull in huge audiences. But it's now surrounded by pedestrianised streets, so there's no easy parking, no immediate drop off points for public transport. And internally, it has an auditorium that starts on the first floor, but only one tiny lift. It's really hard going for anyone with mobility problems.

And now of course, Cardiff also has the WMC. Massive multi-storey car park over the road, bus/taxi stop right outside the front door, train stop within five minutes walk. Loads of lifts. Similarly brilliant auditorium, of a similar capacity. Just in an easier to access, and rather more glamorous building. Does Cardiff pull in sufficient audience to support both these buildings? And if not, isn't it better we find another purpose for the weaker building, and let its business go to other venues in Cardiff, hopefully making them healthier?"

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Comment by Laura H Drane on February 5, 2014 at 13:39

I'd only mention that WMC and SDH have two very different purposes - one is a lyric theatre space suitable for opera and theatre; the other is an international concert hall. 

Comment by Gary Owen on February 3, 2014 at 12:16

And in response to responses, I further post this -

"Thanks everyone for your thoughts. As I say, I don't know quite what I think myself. But -
SDH does have accessibility issues, inside and out. And these issues are serious problems for the older audience that the SDH tends to attract to its classic
al concert programme.

Alun and Allison have both said a capital city should have a venue like SDH. Where does this should come from? Yes, Allison, a capital should have multiple arts venues. Our capital does. If anything, it feels to me like it has funded lots of venue building or rebuilding, and then not funded work to go into those venues. So what I'm asking is, why should a city the size of Cardiff have two venues of roughly similar function and roughly similar - and fairly large - capacity, if it can't sustain them? In terms of concert venues alone, Cardiff has - off the top of my head and in addition to SDH, the main space at the WMC, the Hoddinott Hall at the WMC, the new 450 seater Dora Stouzker Hall at RWCMD, and lots of smaller spaces.

It's clear that some of SDH's problems are not of its own making. The redevelopment of the area around the Hayes has left it cut off from transport links in a way it wasn't, when the Hall was planned and built. And the opening of the WMC has taken some of its business. And this sort of thing seems to happen in Cardiff a lot. We've got this glorious new shopping centre in SD2 - but I remember the glorious new shopping centres at Capitol and the Queen's Arcade, both of which now have plenty of unused units, as business has shifted to SD2. We build a thing, forget it, then build something very similar just down the road. In fact, the reason I began thinking about this was hearing of plans to build a brand new conference centre on Callaghan Square, and it occurred to me - doesn't SDH stage conferences? Isn't it looking a bit shabby? Couldn't SDH do with a refurb, rather than building a whole new venue?

As Richard has pointed out, national and city goverments seem incapable of pulling in the same direction in Cardiff (or Wales as whole), and we have no obvious forum for calling our various leaders to account on this. I think it's also that new city administrations want to build their own shiny new things, rather than looking after what's been built by their predecessors.

Sarah and others have mentioned great times they've had at brilliant concerts. But it seems lots of these are shows by commercial pop (in the very broadest sense) acts, for young(er) audiences who don't have such a problem with the SDH's accessibility issues. Why couldn't these continue in a private sector venue? And could the council, rather than paying £1.2m a year to sub the whole venue, pay a rather smaller amount to fund a strand of culturally valuable, if not commercially sustainable, classical performances?

And finally - and I don't mean this an attack on anyone. But it feels like, in the arts, our response to any threatened cut, to anything, is to scream no. I understand that response. I work almost completely in the subsidised theatre sector, and if that goes I'm in my mid-forties with two children and no other obvious career. But when we start to insist that Cardiff must have two 1500-2000 seater concert venues, at a cost of at least £1.2m a year, when the council is cutting libraries and infant play centres in the MOST deprived regions of the city - then I worry we start to look ridiculous. And then it becomes easy to ignore us.
"

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