Watford Concerts Archive

Open letter to the Mayor - responses (1)

The Mayor's first response, 18 November 2009

dear All
stunned and shocked by such a purely partisan  and ill informed response. Bottom line we too care about the acoustics and have taken steps to ensure that all is well in that area.  We want classical concerts to continue in the venue and they will. Not sure how many different ways the council can say this.
The people of Watford want a commercial operator who can bring them a wide variety of music and performance; what you are saying is an insult to a well established and successful company not to mention council officers who have spent many long days working on this project.The model is NOT the same as has already failed twice , hence my misinformed comment I could go on ...............

Mayor of Watford.

Jonathan Brett's comment, 18 November 2009

I find it really depressing that she is unable to see that I am actually trying to help and that being able to say "I told you so" in a few years time has no appeal at all.  If my attititude is "ill-informed" it merely indicates that an appropriate level of consultation has not been undertaken:   if the council or new operator has made effective provision for professional concerts (other than BBC promotions), how come I am unaware of this?  I have been ready for positive discussion for a long time now - what possible motivation I could have for being difficult about this?  So far as I can see, by showing unwillingness to play with the council's ball, I have nothing to win at all and potentially much to lose - being Public Enemy #1 was never one of my life-goals, whatever Watford Councillors may think!  In any case, I only proposed a debate - if the council really believed in its proposals this suggestion would have been accepted on the grounds that the arguments could be won but instead we just get defensive, meaningless soundbites.

I am sure everyone reading will make their own judgement on the basis of what has been said so far but, to take the points arising:

  1. If the council really cares about the acoustics, why has the choice of consultant not been discussed with CCT, with CTS-Lansdowne (who invested heavily in the hall and brought the Lord of the Rings recording to it) or any other local body or person with an interest and expertise?  Such arrogance is breathtaking when there are people who, without demanding the consultancy fees the council is so keen to pay to anyone else who does anything, will simply help?   Why no involvement with renovation plans in any way?
  2. If the council wants concerts to continue, why no requirement within the "vision" that the acoustic actually be used for the purpose for which its acoustic qualitites have a value?  Why no clear provision for the financial consequences within the grants system?  Why no response to my letter to the council about this?
  3. "Tthe people of Watford want a commercial operatior...." is such a weak comment:  in any case the business plan I have been promoting would have to take account of the need for variety of output - but would do so in a context of greater sustainability and better value for local taxpayers as well as artistic potential.  If they were in possession of the full facts I do not believe for one instant that the people of Watford would demand their money be used to support commercial operation of the hall - indeed I find the suggestion preposterous.

It looks as though there is no way forwards from this impasse despite my attempt to offer one.  I have held my tongue for years now, having been assured that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the council knows what it is doing.  The only positive point one can make is that during this time the hall has been run well by council managers, which makes the headlong rush to adopt an alternative solution still more baffling to all cognisant of the situation. In the circumstances I think it only right to publish many more details in due course:  I suspect that the council has not grasped that we are now in the information age and full details of the missed opportunity will be made available and remain available on an indefinite basis. If I am proved right about issues arising then the responsibility will be clear and no excuses possible - but this will be of no comfort to those who care about artistic development at the hall and value for money for local taxpayers.

Incidentally, I have not at any point intended to imply that HQ Theatres is not a capable company.  What I am saying is that the council has started from the wrong place - a weak vision - then chosen the wrong business model and finally selected operators who have managed the transition process and renovation issues poorly through lack of consultation.  In view of the fact that, so far as I am aware, they only manage buildings which are, by design, theatres (or multi-purpose) and have neither experience nor expertise in dealing with a hall of such musical significance, this is not wholly surprising - it just makes their lack of interest to engage with those who do have some knowledge about the hall less easy to understand.

I hope this clarifies some of the issues.  Not sure where we can go from here since its clear that, as has been the case all the way along, there is no interest in actually addressing concerns in any meaningful way. If anyone has any bright ideas do let me know.