Venues will ‘remain at heart of Weston’ - Parkwood boss

View of the Winter Gardens Pond, Weston-s-Mare.

View of the Winter Gardens Pond, Weston-s-Mare. - Credit: Archant

WESTON’S Playhouse and Winter Gardens are not at risk and have a crucial role to play in the town’s future, according to the firm which runs them.

Last week, the Mercury reported how a source close to the two venues had criticised Parkwood Community Leisure for the way it had operated the two venues in the two years since it took control of them in a 10-year management contract.

The former senior manager said the venues were losing thousands of pounds a month and staff morale had been hit by a raft of resignations and redundancies.

But Parkwood now says it ‘categorically disputes’ any suggestion the two sites could be at risk – and instead says it plans to invest in them both to ensure they remain at the heart of Weston for years to come.

James Coulton, Parkwood’s South West regional director, said: “Parkwood Community Leisure categorically disputes the suggestion on the front page of the Mercury that the Winter Gardens and Playhouse Theatre could be under threat of closure. This is simply not the case.

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“Parkwood, which operate the venues on behalf of North Somerset Council, is comfortable that the venues continue to grow in line with plans.

“The company is investing further in the facilities to upgrade and enhance the services provided.

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“These are important venues for Parkwood Leisure, North Somerset Council, and the local community.

“As a business we are fully committed to their continued success and future growth over the long term.”

Parkwood says it has already invested £210,000 in enhancements, equipment and furniture at the two sites, and is planning a further £40,000 of improvements.

These will include upgrading external signs, and rebranding and refurbishment of a number of different areas within the two venues. In addition, it plans to launch a new website, menu and online booking system to help customers.

The firm says the changes are beginning to reap dividends too, and points to the launch of new events and a three-fold increase in the number of wedding bookings this year as evidence of growing prosperity.

Mr Coulton added: “While traditionally reliant on income from business bookings, the economic downturn had negatively impacted on the Winter Gardens when Parkwood first took over.

“A change to the business strategy has since resulted in noticeable growth for the venue by focusing on wedding bookings and community events alongside a dedicated programme of entertainment events. This is a really exciting time for the Winter Gardens, with many positive developments being planned.”

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