Council plans to shut down all of Sutton’s theatres have been met by a wave of opposition from the arts community, with one actor describing the move as ‘heart-breaking’.
Sutton Council want to draw the curtains on the Secombe Theatre in Sutton, the Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton, and Wallington Public Hall as they strive to cut £40m off their annual budget.
If it goes ahead the proposal will rip the cultural heart out of the borough, leaving no large venues for Sutton’s drama community to perform.
Since it went live on Friday, August 29, an online Save The Secombe Theatre petition has gathered 466 signatures from members of the public and the theatre community.
Actor and theatre director Justin Eade, from Cheam, said: "I am a great supporter of the Secombe Theatre.
"I was told this morning and it is heart-breaking.
"I have a form of autism, and people in the know about the illness will tell you that its main affect is the limitation of social skills.
"I feel without the social skills and the self-esteem gained from this fantastic theatre, I would not be where I am today."
An online petition from Carshalton resident Andy Brice urging the council to reconsider the future of Sutton's theatres has 309 signatures.
A Facebook page titled save the Charles Cryer Theatre has 626 likes.
The venues host shows and performances throughout the year, and serves as a platform for amateur dramatic and youth theatre groups.
Dave Thompson, chairman of the Sutton Amateur Dramatic Club, said: "We were shocked here, especially as they are closing all of them.
"It seems they have gone a bit overkill to me.
"Wallington Public Hall is unsafe and needs work, so I can understand that closing, but all of them is too much.
"We are looking into other venues now. It may have to be village halls and places like that, we are unsure at the moment."
Sutton Council is seeking to save £355,000 a year through the closures, but will rake in millions should they sell the sites to developers.
The council states the Secombe Theatre costs £325,000 a year, with savings of £210,000 a year to be made if it closes.
They estimate £70,000 a year will be saved if the Charles Cryer Theatre is shut down- with it costing the council £157,000 a year at the moment.
Wallington Hall is reported to set the council back £125,000 a year, with £75,000 a year in savings should it be closed.
Decommissioning the buildings will incur costs, impacting on any savings the council could make.
The Save Secombe Theatre petition was launched by the Labour Party candidate for Sutton and Cheam, Emily Brothers.
She said: "The campaign opposes the proposed closure of The Secombe Theatre and calls on The London Borough of Sutton to take positive steps to facilitate community leadership, extending the feasibility period to March 31, 2016."
The proposal to shut the theatres will be formally submitted to the council's environment and neighbourhood committee on Thursday, September 4.
If the plans are approved, consultations will begin, and the issue will be discussed at a full council meeting on November 7.
Should the proposal be given the go-ahead all the three theatres will be shut down around April next year.
To visit the Save The Secombe Theatre petition page click here.
To visit the Save The Charles Cryer Theatre Facebook page click here.
To visit the Reconsider The Future of Sutton's Theatres click here.
From Tuesday, September 9, people can submit their views on the proposals via an online survey at www.suttonsfuture.org.
Are you a member of the Sutton theatre community? Do you regularly use the theatre? Call the news desk on 020 8722 6358, or email firstname.lastname@example.org