City draws flak over theatre

The outside of the Bellville civic centre which houses the theatre.

The Bellville Civic Theatre is falling apart, say those using the municipal venue, because the City of Cape Town is neglecting it.

The theatre, which is more than 50 years old, has a 750-seat auditorium and hosts everything from music concerts and talent shows to school competitions.

Patrick Maitland has the Memories and Melodies concerts there since 2004 and says the theatre has a lot of potential, but it’s neglected.

“No one promotes the theatre. Each year it runs at a substantial loss, yet there is no one to try and increase sales to minimise the loss,” he said.

“There is no permanent place for serving refreshments, you have to bring your own and set it up yourself, which is time-consuming and unsightly, and you cannot sell wine if you do not have a licence.”

Erna Ackermann, the owner of Erna Ackermann School of Dancing, said the theatre had been deteriorating for years.

Ms Ackermann has taught dance for more than 30 years – 20 of those, she says, have been spent fighting with the City to do something about the state of the theatre.

“The conditions there get worse every year. I don’t know what is happening. The auditorium is leaking from the roof on the actual stage, the seating has no numbers anymore, and the toilets – none of them work.”

Ms Ackermann has already booked the hall and paid for it for two weeks for rehearsals for her latest dance show. But she has her doubts about pulling off the production.

“How on earth will I be able to sell tickets to the public in a place like this?

“They leased it to me for
R24 000, and I have paid the deposit of R8 000 already. Where is the money going if not to restore, fix and renovate the problems inside and outside the theatre as well as the cloakrooms foyer and public toilets?”

But Stuart Diamond, the City’s Mayco member for assets and facilities management, says money has been budgeted for repairs at the theatre.

“The City has taken note of the concerns regarding the facility; we have invested
R6.5 million in repairs and maintenance for the Bellville Civic Centre during the 2017/2018 financial year.”

But Ms Ackermann is not convinced.

“No one wants to take responsibility. They have been promising to do something about those conditions since forever, I will believe it when I see it.”

Mr Maitland said there did not seem to be anyone at the City with the skill or authority to run a successful theatre.

He said the City should consider hiring a theatre manager to “turn things around”.

Both Ms Ackermann and Mr Maitland said the theatre was the only one available to them without having to travel long distances.