DRAMA students at a Fenland college were devastated this week following a decision to move their courses from Wisbech to King’s Lynn.
And the move is likely to have major repercussions for the area’s only fully functioning theatre as up to 40 staff could lose their jobs.
The College of West Anglia confirmed on Monday it would be transferring its performing arts courses from the Isle Campus to King’s Lynn from September as part of a raft of cost cutting measures aimed at saving over £3.4 million.
However, on a positive note the college announced it has shelved plans to move all its business and computing courses from Wisbech to King’s Lynn.
The Isle Campus will retain the full range of computing courses with the level 2 and 3 business courses shifting to King’s Lynn.
Drama students staged a vociferous campaign to fight the college’s proposals as theirs is one of only a few drama courses nationally to have access to a theatre.
Many of the Wisbech classes are held at the town’s historic Angles Theatre and the students have their own theatre company – Nine Lives Theatre Company – which stages shows there throughout the year.
Lucinda Morton, who has just completed a drama course at the Isle College, said access to the Angles Theatre was a big plus and future students would miss out on a fantastic facility.
She said news of the move was given to students on Friday by college Principal David Pomfrett.
“There were tears all round when he told us. Everyone is devastated and can’t believe they have decided to move the course,” said Lucinda.
The decision has serious implications for the Angles Theatre as 22 per cent of its annual income comes from the college.
Kevin Shippey, chairman of the theatre’s trustees, said they were very disappointed by the college’s decision especially as they had put together an alternative proposal which had seen them cut costs in a bid to keep the drama students.
He emphasised the loss of the college income would not force the theatre to close, but it would make life harder and they would need to seek alternative funding.
He said the financial loss was a major blow, but the loss of the students was equally devastating as they are a big part of the theatre.
“We are like a big family. The students are a fantastic asset. The Nine Lives Theatre Company is something very, very special and unique,” said Mr Shippey.
In a statement Mr Pomfrett did say the college would be discussing ways to maintain the links with the Angles so it can be used for future performances.
The Nine Lives Theatre Company is currently performing their latest production -‘Crazy For You’ at the Angles with performances tonight (Wednesday), Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm.
There are still some tickets available and Lucinda added: “We are hoping to go out with a bang and have a full house every night.”