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The Big Picture

You are in: Derby > The Big Picture > State of the Arts in Derby

State of the Arts in Derby

For our latest Big Picture debate with BBC Radio Derby, we're looking at the arts and our local venues and asking: "How do we compare?"

Quad and the Assembly Rooms

Old and New: The Assembly Rooms and QUAD

QUAD, the new, modern, arts centre has now opened its doors to the public.

At the same time, Derby Playhouse is still in a state of turmoil and has an uncertain future.

On the stage, there are almost no 'big name' bands/groups booked to appear in the city.

Showcase Cinema De Lux, Derby

Inside the Cinema De Lux

The city does rather better for cinemas - the Cinema De Lux, Odeon and Showcase multi-screens seem to provide ample capacity for Derby and the surrounding areas - there is also a multi-screen at Chesterfield and other, small, independent cinemas in Ilkeston and Belper.

And now there's QUAD. Billed as "a thriving centre for art and film" QUAD is home to two cinema screens, A BFI Mediatheque (a collection of film and television from the BFI National Archive), gallery and exhibition space and arts workshops.

Buxton and Chesterfield do quite well - they have thriving arts scenes at the Buxton Opera House, Chesterfield Pomegranate and Winding Wheel.

Regional competition

Do you think Derby is overshadowed by Nottingham and Leicester when it comes to arts events?

For example, in the next few months alone, McFly, James Blunt, Katie Melua, Bryan Adams, the Stereophonics and Status Quo are lined up to appear in Nottingham - you won't find any of those names lined-up for Derby.

However, Kate Rusby, Steve Coogan, a host of tribute bands, Jim Davidson, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Spirit of the Dance all form part of a healthy list of popular entertainment due to be seen in Derby soon at the likes of the Assembly Rooms and the Guildhall.

There is also a number of small venues, such as the Vic Inn, The Royal and The Venue, more than willing to put on up-and-coming artists. And there's the Flowerpot for tributes, blues and roots.

The cast of Animal Farm

On stage at the Playhouse

Derby also now boasts two regular comedy clubs - and let's not forget Déda Derby Dance.

Derby Playhouse has just reopened, opting to go it alone after a series of rows with the city council and the Arts Council over funding.

But in Leicester, the new Curve theatre has £37 million of local authority backing. So why the dramatic difference? Can Derby Playhouse make it alone in the current economic climate?

Your view

So how do you rate the state of the arts in Derby and Derbyshire?

Is the local arts scene in good shape? Does it need a kick up the naughties? Is Quad the way forward and will it help?

Use the form below to have your say.

How do Derby and Derbyshire compare to other cities and areas in arts provision?

A representative sample of comments received

Last year's festé was amazing and I hope that this year the parade and other events will be even better supported.

Alison, Duffield

This year's FESTé lin up looks fabulous - exciting and imaginative. I hope it becomes a regular on Derby's calendar and continues to grow each year. Long Live Festé

Christine, Allestree

When it comes to Arts provision I think the city IS getting there. Yes, we need a new concert venue - and a BIG one.

But we also need decent names on the list - Steve Coogan, Glenn Miller Orchestra and Jim Davidson are hardly inspirational. A new concert venue would open up SO MANY possibilites and pay divindends to the city by showing audiences and artists that Derby is serious aboiut arts and entertainments.

Ray, Derby

I think it is unjustifiable that massive amounts are cash are being spent on huge arts projects across the Midlands, whilst our highly acclaimed 60-year-old theatre Derby Playhouse has deliberately been left in the cold, following the building of Westfields, and a change of attitude and policy by Derby City Council and and Arts Council East Midlands.
Most major City centres have a thriving regional producing theatre, and the fact that we actually have one that is having to survive without subsidy from any arts organization seems criminal to me.
I believe this is a purely political situation. Derby Playhouse has massive public support, having ammassed 15,000 signatures last Nov to protest against its forced closure! There are 5000 members of the facebook site, Save Derby Playhouse, and on the web, from people locally and all over the world. Why is this? Because the Playhouse has inspired and entertained massive numbers over decades, and many of recognize the magnificence of productions past and present.

Joanne, Long Eaton

The arts in Derby are improving but I believe it could be better if the Assembly Rooms had an additional floor added to the building creating a 4000-5000-seat concerts venue. This would increase the range of shows from music to classical music and other events that found in Nottingham and Sheffield.  The future development of Pride Park stadium that would take the venue to between 45.000 and 50.000 and if a roof was fitted the stadium could hold larger concerts up to 35000 in the summer period or when Derby County are away. 
At the labour party conference they will giving tickets to see plays so Derby play house and the Assembly rooms would benefit with this package with additional people and revenue that would not come without this plan.

Derby will need greater facilities with a growing City and a larger stadium is essential for Derby to promote it nightlife leading to improved public transport that goes with these developments.

Steve, Spondon

Derby does not advertise itself sufficiently to promote the existing venues we (living at Burton) get no information in the Burton Mail on Assembly Rooms events and other attractions. There is also the Burton Trader. Plenty of information on Stoke, Nottingham ( Yes !! ) and of course Birmingham. There is no point in any additional venues without promotion. Remember South Derbyshire and East Staffs are a potential very large audience particularly with fuel costs to the further areas. Come on get your act together!

G A Ward, Burton on Trent

I do believe Derby need to get something like a Carling Academy in Birmingham where new upcoming acts (ie The Enemy, Pendulm etc) can play. But it would be better if we had something bigger than that so the likes of Oasis/Feeder/Kaiser Chiefs could play.
I know Pride Park has held gigs and in summer months this would be perfect if a agreement could be made with DCFC for atleast one big gig a year. I don't mind going to places at weekends but bands etc do play gigs mid-week and would make things better if they were in Derby

Sam, Derby

What this town needs now is the Hippodrome being refurbished back to what it was, for the use of the amateur groups to use as well as touring variety shows. Then we might be getting something like Nottingham, it would add to the Quad centre & the Assembly Rooms.

Dennis Frost, Derby

Derby is poor. Very Poor. The City seems to lack a true vision about the Arts. We had a massive opportunity to build the National Ice Stdium at Pride Park. We just let Nottingham take it from us without a fight and place in the most awkward location in their City.  This was a massive lost opoportunity. The City fathers seem content to squabble with each other over petty issues and really not give any true consideration to the City as a whole. Everything takes too much time to develop. The bus station should have been up an running ages ago but we let some 10 or so do-gooders delay the project by 10 years. If we can't afford public loo's (the City was a laughing stock in the East Midlands on the local news on this one) what chance of taking the City to the next level.
Where do we figure between Notts and Leics?
Arts - way behind. Our playhouse will not survive we need a new regime.
Shopping - Leicester has the better centre now but Notts is still on top. Why can't we attract John Lewis??
Leisure - not as good as the other two.
Hotels - we are not even off the mark.
People - Deserve a hell of a lot better than we get....Population Notts City 280,000 Catchment 600,000 Derby City 240,000 Cathcment 500,000 Leicester City 310,000 Catchment 550,000. A good portion of Notts catchment is Derbyshire. Now this should tell you how good our city councillors have been over the years!

Phil, Aston on Trent

The Trent FM Arena in Nottingham is the sort of venue Derby needs with up to a 10,000 capacity. Part of the cost came from National Lottery funds (10% of around £40)and the British Olympic Association got behind the idea. Funding could be made available, and of course, its Olympic time! We have entertainment contacts on the board of Derby County and at the cinemas.

David Thomas, Derby

derby deffinitely loses out to nottm and leic. as a derby born and bred 50 something I feel that it's high time that we had a venue that would attract the big names. I'm fed up with having to travel to other towns to see my favourite artistes.

Please give us this facility now and complete the Derby experience.

Steve Mackay, Belper

I am saddened and dismayed by how Derby Playhouse was treated by Derby City Council in Nov 07 onwards. The closure seemed to coincide with the completion of Westfields shopping centre, following a three-year build, which I believe caused grave disruption to the running of the theatre. Despite having massive subsequent success with Stepping Out, the Council appeared determined to refuse an advance for funding. This was followed by a claim by the Arts Council of about a million pounds. This shows a complete lack of support, and possibly a great desire to divert control of Derby's regional theatre to the Council.

Conversely, massive funding to the tune of £60m has been allocated to The Curve Theatre in Leicester. Why the inequality?

At present there appears to be a bright future for Visual Arts in Derby, and perhaps nationwide,compared to theatre. I believe Quad to be superb, and am delighted.

But why is Derby Playhouse having to struggle with NO subsidies, when it has been one of the top regional theatres in the country, and producing 5* nationally acclaimed drama? To me it is criminal. Would this have happened elsewhere in the country on such a scale?
Derby deserves to have high quality theatre as well as visual art. It should not be an either/or choice, it should be joined up thinking and policy across the whole of the arts in Derby.
There is massive public support for Derby Playhouse, as evidenced by 5000+ on Facebook, and the many hundreds who signed petitions and make up the loyal audiences.
The City Council and Arts Council should surely pay heed to that; this is about provision of the arts for the people of Derby, and not a political football.

Joanne, Long Eaton

I do think that the arts is very sadly under-funded in Derbyshire, yes. Nottingham and Leicester seem to have more drive about them when it comes to attracting big names to their venues, but Derby has had an excellent reputation for theatre until recent times.

The way the Playhouse has handled itself in recent times is a travesty. A few years ago people in the know from all over the country would know Derby for its Playhouse as it had an excellent reputation. The excuse that the new Westfield centre has been to blame is tosh.

However, Derby has a thriving arts culture generated by the people - take ´Fourblokes´ theatre company for example. Formed entirely from Derbyshire stock its refreshingly edgy and stylish performances are winning awards throughout the East Midlands and the next show at the Guildhall is sure to continue the trend.

The Quad is also a step in the right direction too. The demand and knowledgable appreciation of the arts is clearly strong in Derby and the county - we now need the Playhouse and Assembly Rooms to match that ambition and need because whoever comes to perform in this city is guaranteed a warm, honest and genuine response to their entertainment.

Ross Lowe, Derby/London

Have your say: What do you think about the arts in Derby and Derbyshire? What kind of state are they in? Tell us also what you think of QUAD. Leave your comments and questions here. Please - be sure to tell us your name and where you are from...

last updated: 29/09/2008 at 16:01
created: 18/09/2008

You are in: Derby > The Big Picture > State of the Arts in Derby

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