Spotlites Theatre Company has been a family run non profit organisation based in the heart of Chatham, Medway for nearly 30 years. We pride ourselves on providing a safe space for young people within the community, where they feel they can use our drama sessions as a creative outlet to fully express themselves. We have always primarily been a theatre within the community run for, by and with young people extending our services to adults and ALD members also.
Due to being a not for profit company it means all the money we receive goes back into the running of our humble theatre, from the provision of our sessions, bills, props and equipment and towards licenses for shows we wish to put on through out the year. Unfortunately covid hit us hard like all theatre companies. We lost quite a few members in the time period we had to shut. When restrictions for covid were removed we opened properly as usual and were determined that 2022 will be our year to get us back to what we were pre-covid. This was going well, we put on lots of shows and events throughout the year, and then of course when we went into the latter half of the year we all found out we were going into a cost of living crisis.
As much as we have always been a part of the community, we recognise our services are a luxury to those who can't afford to attend our sessions. This meant not building up membership that was lost in the pandemic years prior. We also had to look at the costs of running to see what we could to do to combat it. However, we know that the cost of living is not just hitting our theatre in particular, and in order to combat the rise in cost on bills it would mean upping our fees. Something that would hit our members further. So we have made sure to keep our costs the same despite these trying times. Spotlites Theatre Company is of course a business, but it is a company that has always prided itself on being there for its community, and to raise our costs when everyone in the country is struggling right now would mean taking away a vital activity that our young people attend. Speak to anyone who currently attends Spotlites, or used to attend. Our theatre has always been well loved because of the principles we hold ourselves to.
That being said, Spotlites theatre was once again dealt another blow when in November 2022 we were approached by a developer who had purchased the neighbouring property to our venue. This wished to discuss their plans which included the car park behind out building and the potential impact it would have on us. To lose the car park would be the biggest problem for us, and this has always been where members are dropped off and picked up safely after sessions, where our disable patrons park for easier access to our building and in general where customers park when coming to attend our shows. The surrounding nearby car parks had already been closed in the area, meaning a trek for anyone who wanted to attend Spotlites. It also meant loss of visibility, as new high rise buildings would wipe out any view of our building from the main road and hide us, with the only access being up an alleyway.
Despite trying to work with the developers and agreements being made, the new year has been a major battle for us. We set up a GoFundMe fundraiser in order to raise funds for the impending impact, to then have access to the council owned carpark behind us be closed off by the developers without any notification. Our fundraiser is now about raising funds for the impact that this development is having on the theatre here and now.
We have been working with the council in regards to these developers, and have also had the wonderful opportunities to speak our peace via several local news outlets. The links are below if you wish to give them a read/watch.
All being said, we are overwhelmed with the amount of support our community has shown to us, and ask that if you can please donate to help us stay afloat whilst we work to find a solution to these developers. If you can't donate then please spread the word about us, recommend us to families who wish to come and see family friendly shows, or to people who would benefit from the drama services we provide. Thank you.
Kent online article two - https://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/theatre-company-faces-closure-over-bingo-hall-flats-plan-280523/?fbclid=IwAR03J2wNi87_lBdpAnMN2z2MgfsfnBZwmN8BbCtJQ5pH4eX0qhfDyYan0zc
Future Chatham - https://futurechatham.weebly.com/news/developer-blocks-access-to-medway-council-owned-union-place-car-park-chatham?fbclid=IwAR2K9Rm9PwVBoTgiDcJX1aIcGj8D2RN0ncnoKY5h0PIz3jJA6Kaf1PrXdwo
We also wish to thank you Medway Pride radio for interviewing us about this issue.