Ryan Williams, who chairs the Performing Arts Development Group, has called for decisive action to reopen the building, warning of ‘profound consequences to the local arts organisations, the economy, and the cultural and mental well-being of Islanders’.
He has asked the Chief Minister to provide plans for the theatre’s repairs, which are to be financed from the Fiscal Stimulus Fund created to help the economy recover from the effects of the pandemic.
A grant of £2.2 million was announced in April but it emerged earlier this month that the Opera House’s chairman Pierre Horsfall had been given no indication of when the repairs would begin or any timescale for their completion. Mr Horsfall told the JEP that the work was being commissioned directly by the government and that the Opera House was awaiting details of the appointment of a project manager for the repairs to the interior and exterior of the theatre.
Earlier this week Hilary Davan Wetton, the musical director of the Jersey Symphony Orchestra, said he was ‘staggered’ by the lack of urgency shown by the government to reopening the theatre which receives an annual revenue grant of more than £½m but has been closed since the start of the pandemic. He confirmed that the JSO has already had to shelve a plan to perform at the Opera House next Easter.
Now the Performing Arts Development Group established by the Jersey Arts Trust – as it was then called – has appealed directly to the Chief Minister, calling for the local community to have access to the theatre for live performances at the earliest opportunity.
‘It is imperative that the Island continues to care for and maintain its public buildings on a regular basis, and not when a building becomes so unfit for purpose that it is forced to close. PADG Members are deeply frustrated that the Jersey Opera House has seemingly been deemed unworthy of regular funding for necessary maintenance repairs in recent years,’ Mr Williams writes.
Meanwhile, the government advertised yesterday on its web portal for a project manager for the repairs to the Opera House and Arts Centre which has also secured funding. The advertisement gives 31 March 2022 as an end date for the contract.