Brentwood Live closes after talks to secure future break down
Michael Cox and James Weatherup
- Credit: Brentwood Live
Brentwood Live - which was set to host star performers such as Jimmy Carr - has closed after talks over its future broke down.
The Entertainers, run by father and son Mike and James Taylor, had attracted big-name acts such as UB40 and stand-up comic Carr to perform at Brentwood Live, in the Brentwood Centre.
Director James, 35, said they had been in talks with the council to safeguard its future after it was announced in October that Brentwood Leisure Trust (BLT), which managed the centre, had been wound up.
He added: “Unfortunately, these talks have now ceased and we have been left bewildered and saddened that we were not offered a viable option to continue.
“Our hopes were that Brentwood Council would have kept us at the Brentwood Centre to continue to provide something special for the people of Brentwood and the surrounding areas to enjoy and be proud of but unfortunately this was not the case.
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“So sadly, the Brentwood Live dream has come an end. It has been a very hard decision for us but there is no other viable way for us to continue.”
Mike, the managing director and a former stand-up comedian who has been in showbiz for 50 years, said they had invested more than £300,000 over the past two years into the venue but that it was “all for nothing”.
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They claim the council only offered them a short-term contract, including increased charges such as another £500 per hour for a late night licence for some shows and extra fees for security, bar and venue staff on performances over four hours which they say was included in their previous agreement with BLT.
They also accused the council of not proceeding with the replacement of 362 seats, out of the 2,000 capacity, that had been removed at the end of last year.
Mike, 70, added: “To be honest we feel completely let down.”
The Entertainers had incurred losses of more than £500,000 linked to the winding-up of BLT and events have not been held at Brentwood Live during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The council’s chief executive Jonathan Stephenson told the Recorder that it could not be seen to favour one of the trust’s creditors over another.
He confirmed that he had told Mike and James that it would look to offer to charge them a smaller fee than before and put shows on for 12 to 18 months but couldn’t offer a five-year contract like they had with BLT.
He said: “We can’t just gift arrangements, we have to go through a process.
"The line I said to them a few times was, as of today I cannot give you a five-year exclusive contract. I can’t just offer something to one organisation without going through some process.
“It might be in the next month or two, we’ve gone through that. But, as of today, all I can offer is comfort that you’ll have your shows, put them in the diary for the next two years, but what we can’t do is give a contract for five years.
“The council should be here for a long time so even though they might not have a formal contract that’s exclusive to them, if they put want to put shows on at the Brentwood Centre and they are economical for both parties, why wouldn’t we put the shows on?”
Mr Stephenson said both parties made further offers but the council had not heard anything since.
He confirmed that the council had outlined what extra charges would be for staffing outside of four hours but said they were subject to the type of event being put on.
“They’ve taken it we want to charge for everything, that wasn’t the dialogue we had with them.”
He said the seats mentioned by the Taylors had been ordered by BLT but not paid for, adding: “In my eyes, they never had those seats so we’re not taking anything away.
"The trust had never purchased them. If there is demand for that seating, of course the council would look to invest.”
He said there has been demand from others to hold events at the centre, but Mr Stephenson said they were still offering the dates and shows to The Entertainers first and foremost.
But he added: “A lot of the shows, if the artists have got demand, the shows will still come to the centre.”
James said all the remaining shows at Brentwood Live would be cancelled and that anyone who booked tickets should contact their original point of purchase to get a refund.