Watford Concerts Archive

Watford Town Hall / Colosseum history (p.2)

Taking sole responsibility for a major series of concerts was a substantial risk for the trust and needed to be a success. Fortunately we more than doubled audience attendance compared with the council's 1993/4 season and the concerts were extremely well-received. Our initial funding was for one year only but the council's then Leisure Services Director considered that the trust's involvement brought a huge gain in efficiency and that the new bottom line costs of concerts could be managed by the council. He authorised an immediate grant increase in order to enable the 1997/8 season, on the mutual understanding that a further substantial increase would be needed to sustain this activity.

Unfortunately he left shortly afterwards and the council grant remained fixed until the hall next closed in 2004, creating an ever-increasing financial pressure. After years of stonewalling, a meeting with newly elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill in September 2002 elicited an understanding of the need for a substantial increase in grant funding if concerts were to continue. Unfortunately this was never forthcoming.

After an excellent start in 1996, subsequent seasons brought steady increases in subscriber numbers and brought peak attendance into four figures but as time passed it was not only the trust which was encountering financial issues: the Colosseum management was starting to struggle and requests to the council for assistance fell upon deaf ears. Finally, in April 2004 the Mayor provided a temporary bailout for the hall but it proved too little and too late and the company folded just a few months later, unable to cash-flow the period before the planned arrival of the BBC Concert Orchestra, which was being made homeless by the collapse of the Golders Green Hippodrome.

The council stepped in temporarily, keeping the hall open until December 31st 2004. In a meeting with the Mayor and Chief Executive during the summer, I was persuaded to present one final series of concerts during the autumn of 2004. My understanding was that the hall would then close for renovation and that our orchestral concerts would be included within the subsequent operation with a funding base allowing for sustainable operation.