A THEATRE has had a request for funds turned down by a town council, but there are hopes shows will go on next year.

At the July meeting of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council, held via Microsoft Teams, members were asked to consider a request for £5,000 from The Hafren.

The money would have gone towards an upgraded sound system, enhancing the Hafren's digital programme while the not-for-profit venue is still affected by coronavirus restrictions.

But members felt if they were to agree to the funding they could become inundated with similar requests they would be unable to grant, and it would not be fair on everyone.

Cllr John Barker said: "It's a one-off request.

"But there is a process to apply for grants (to the town council) - should it have come to full council first, are we setting a precedent?"

Cllr Richard Edwards said another business in the town had already approached him to say they would be asking for similar support should the theatre's grant request be accepted.

Cllr John Byrne added that it might be better to advise groups that there are forms that could be filled out to apply for a community grant (of up to £1,000) or a coronavirus support grant.

The issue of fairness was also raised by Cllr Kevin Morris.

He said: "I'm concerned people in Newtown could be facing extreme poverty and could be asking questions of where the money goes. Is it fair for all?"

Deputy chair Cllr Richard White chaired this part of the meeting as Mayor and council chair Cllr David Selby declared an interest as a theatre volunteer. He left the meeting while it was discussed and voted on.

Although the council voted to turn down the request, Cllr White and Cllr Edwards expressed support for the theatre and arts.

Cllr White said: "We have to bear in mind that Hafren Theatre is a special case. The theatre we have here in Newtown, we're very very lucky to have."

In a newsletter to Friends of Hafren Theatre, posted to the Hafren website, theatre manager Sara Clutton said the autumn programme had been moved into 2021 as even with restrictions being eased, it would be impractical to host performances and visitors before then.

"I’ve moved everything from the autumn now into the spring/summer of 2021", she said.

"Despite the UK Government saying that indoor performances can restart on August 1, we’ve had no guidance from the Welsh Government. It’s really late for planning now, plus the idea of socially distancing the customers makes it impractical. Socially distancing backstage is even more of a concern as there are at present, no proper procedures developed for disinfecting microphones or any other equipment. Socially distancing backstage is even more difficult than front of house.

I’ve been applying for grants to enable us to extend our programme into the digital content sphere. This means we could take the 'Live' or 'Encore' screenings from such companies as the National Theatre, English National Opera and Royal Ballet, amongst others. I’ve had some success with the grants, so we’re inviting companies to come in and quote for the equipment.

"We will need to upgrade our sound system to Dolby Surround, and update our existing projector. This will cost around £75,000. However, once up and running, the ongoing running costs are not too high, and the benefit of being able to include these options in our programme are enormous."

Ms Clutton added that work is progressing on the fly tower at the theatre and a website revamp will be launched soon.

A backstage section of the theatre will continue to be a coronavirus testing area.

She added: "We have a memorandum of understanding with the Powys Teaching Health Board to continue to provide our backstage area for the COVID-19 testing personnel, be it military or nurses.

"Despite not being able to host performances, we are at least still useful to our communities, providing an excellent service to the testing unit. We can continue with on going maintenance, ensuring that when we do reopen we’re more than ready."