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Hertford Theater team set to run new Bishop’s Stortford arts center

The new £15.5million arts center in Bishop’s Stortford, planned by East Herts Council, is expected to be run in-house by the authority’s Hertford Theater team.

The cinema-led program is part of a larger project to create a cultural center called Old River Lane, which also includes the multi-storey car park being built at Northgate End, which is expected to provide 546 spaces. The council’s development partner, Cityheart, is also planning 137 new homes, 90 senior living apartments, shops, restaurants and offices in the council causeway car parks.

A delivery board was set up to guide the development, and members brainstormed how best to run the scaled-down arts center.

Example cinema for Old River Lane (54118636)

The council were set to spend £30m on a center with a 544-seat theater at its heart, but last year slashed their ambitions – and budget – after government loan rules changed for the local authorities and that Covid-19 has taken a toll on its finances.

The removal of the auditorium, coupled with the demolition of the United Reformed Church hall in Water Lane as part of the wider causeway development, has drawn criticism.

However, East Herts management is determined to continue with plans for an 80-seat multi-purpose cinema/auditorium, a 150-seat cinema with facilities for live acts on an elevated stage, an 80-seat cinema and two cinemas with 50 seats. seat cinemas.

Example of a coffee bar area for Old River Lane (54118628)
Example of a coffee bar area for Old River Lane (54118628)

One of the smaller screening rooms will adjoin a gallery space so they can be used together or separately for private hire. A café-bar will have indoor and outdoor tables and there will be a dedicated ‘public realm’ space outside for events such as outdoor theatre, music festivals and screenings live sports.

The Old River Lane project team worked with Fourth Street Consultants, who specialize in business advice and project expertise in the arts, heritage and entertainment sectors, to examine how the center – with the cinema as the “backbone” of its business model supplemented by live events – should be exploited.

The result is a recommendation that East Herts expand its existing service to include running the new centre, building on its history of “high quality cultural programming” as “an operator that doesn’t just focus on cinema is more likely to create a dynamic schedule of live events”.

Example of sidewalk cafe for Old River Lane (54118631)
Example of sidewalk cafe for Old River Lane (54118631)

With distribution support for new film releases available from specialist cinema operators, the council believes that “a directly run venue is more likely to produce a strong program that encompasses both indoor spaces and the public realm. adjacent”.