By Kevin Unitt 26/04 Updated: 30/04 09:13
THE MAN credited with turning round the fortunes of Leamington's once ailing Royal Spa Centre has announced he is moving on.
In 2009 we exclusively revealed how the centre – then subsided to the tune of £337,000 a year from Warwick District Council coffers – faced possible closure as the authority looked to cut costs.
But in January 2010 Antony Flint took up the role of centre manager and has since overseen its transformation, overseeing the refurbishment of the foyers and backstage areas as well as introducing tiered seating for its main house, a new ticketing system and better wheelchair access.
And despite difficult financial times, ticket sales actually rose to £120,000 during 2010 compared to £75,000 the year before, and have remained steady since. The ultimate aspiration is for the centre's council subsidy to be reduced by £90,000 a year.
Mr Flint, who is taking up a similar role at De Montfort Hall in Leicester at the end of July, told the Observer: “There is still more for the Spa Centre to do but we have got it into a position now where it is as secure as any public building possibly can be given the financial climate.
“If I look back two-and-a-half years, the centre was under threat of closure and its fair to say it was a very tired looking venue.
“I'm proud to have played a part it in now becoming a nicer and more comfortable venue with a broader range of shows.
“It makes a valuable contribution to the town and the district and I believe it has a long and successful future.”
The centre, opened by former Prime Minister and Warwick and Leamington MP Anthony Eden in 1972, includes an 800-seat main theatre, 200-seat adjoining cinema, two bars, a coffee bar and a number of other rooms.
Mr Flint joined it having spent the seven previous years overseeing the transformation of Coventry's Belgrade Theatre in his role there as director of external affairs.
Asked for the highlights of his time in Leamington he laughed when recalling an Observer story last year on Spa Centre's decision to host a Puppetry of the Penis show, which had been branded “obscene” by several people.
He said: “I think that the episode stuck out for me because the show had been to the Spa Centre a few years ago with no issues, so the reaction this time meant that what we are doing here was reaching people that probably hadn’t paid any attention to us before."
Coun Sue Gallagher, on behalf of the district council, said Antony had been a "breath of fresh air" and "invaluable" in creating the new look Spa Centre.
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