John-Jackson Almond,the newly appointed Theatre Director of the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells answers a few of Sammi’s questions about the theatre, his visions and what he thinks about Tunbridge Wells
John-Jackson Almond, Q&A
You have been Theatre Director of the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells since May, how are you settling in?
I am settling in really well, and there is a really great team here in the Assembly Hall and the wider council, all making me feel really welcome. It has also been great to meet John and Alex at Trinity, Jason and Richard at The Forum, Linda from the Puppet Festival, our Team at the Museum and Art Gallery and so many more to start talking more about how we can all help each other and find ways of working together and sharing skills and resources.
How different is it from your last job as executive Director of the Park Theatre in London?
The financial model is a different one, Park Theatre was a charity and self financing without any grants. Reliant on donations and generous philanthropists, Park Theatre was also a producing house, making some of its own work. So the two venues are very different in a lot of aspect.
The Programme of events is very different at the two theatres with the Park Theatre producing a lot of their own work, is this something you can see happening in Tunbridge Wells? How will you be able to influence change?
It would be wonderful to produce some of our own work here in Tunbridge Wells, but I think that this is some way off in the future, but that would be an exciting future.
Tunbridge Wells is about to get a spanking new multi-million pound theatre, how will you be involved in that?
The new theatre is not yet a reality and our Cllrs are working hard to make viable proposals and to ensure a vibrant cultural town for us all. If the members are in agreement to give the project a green light, at least to the planning permission stage, then there will be a group of officers all with influence over various aspects of the p[project, and I will be one of those officers. In short I will be quite involved!
Tell me about the vision.
The Vision for me at the moment is to make our theatre a success story, to have full houses and high quality touring product that engages all sectors of our community, and encourage a sense of community ownership. I want people to want to come to our theatre, to look forward to coming and for every visit to be special and wonderful for everyone! The vision for the future is to achieve all of that and more. That might be in a new building, it might be in the same building. Until the Members have approved the full project we will not know – but a theatre anywhere is a cultural asset to be treasured.
What will happen to the current Assembly Hall Theatre and how will it affect the smaller Trinity Theatre venue?
If there is a new theatre, I don’t know, at this stage what will happen to the current Assembly Hall, that is a matter for our Cllrs to decide, but I do know that we all really value the work of Trinity and at all stages of discussion the impact on Trinity is high on the agenda!
What is the most best part and the most challenging aspect to your new appointment?
The best part is that I get to move to Tunbridge Wells and live and work in a really beautiful part of the world. I am house hunting at the moment. The challenge is to find out what people think and what people want, and to find those people that are not coming to our shows and work out why. We have been sending out some electronic surveys recently and we have learnt a lot from these and I also want to ensure that I can get opinions from those that are not digital yet so we will be putting the same survey in paper form in to the Gateway in September for people to fill in and return, so we can hear their view – or of course people can simply write to us to us what they thing and what they want.
Do you ever get starstruck?
No, I am not one to get starstruck. After all we are all at work at the end of the day, doing a job for the benefit and enjoyment of our community!
Have you looked around Tunbridge Wells much yet and what do you like about it?
William our Chief Executive arranges a wonderful tour of the Borough for new Council Officers with a tour guide, and that took me all over the borough from Speldhurst to Cranbrook, and Sissinghurst. I love the breadth of the Borough and the mix between cosmopolitan and rural. Busy and Peaceful. I thinbk our rich history is a real bonus and of course I have taken the waters and that was a really fun thing to do.