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people actually move to Dartmouth taking into account the Flavel is here. There is a lot more of cultural activity here than you might expect in a community of around 10,000 in Dartmouth and the surrounding area. Because the town is geograph- ically isolated it works in our favour although the river does cut us off somewhat from potential patrons in Torbay.


When you planned the centre did you envisage the sort of mix of activities that you have here now? Ray: At the time it was seen as a community centre because of the history of the Flavel Hall, which was where societies met, that also put on theatrical events. That was a very strong element of the new Flavel centre and why people wanted it. We had not seen it in quite the exact proportions that exist now, but the mix was always seen as important for the sort of cultural focus, which was simply lacking in Dartmouth at the time. There were very few places then in/around Dartmouth where people could congregate for these type of activities.


Doug: The use of the community rooms has strengthened and grown. Over the last few years the utilisa- tion of the meeting rooms is very high be it the U3A, zumba, yoga, art classes etc.


Has the variety of Flavel offerings grown since it started? Doug: The fact the seats in the audi- torium move back provides a huge flexibility and that has been a major contributor to the variety of events we can stage here. As the popu- lation is getting older, the classes for kids and younger people aren’t happening as much. We are aware of these trends and the need to change and are developing links with groups like Dartmouth Caring but also at the same time expanding our links with Dartmouth Academy and other schools.


With hindsight, would you have changed some of the original design features? Ray: I would have liked it to be a little larger. We have 220 seats in the


auditorium and that’s the maximum because of fire regulations. At the beginning we had thought it would be a full three floors instead of two- and-a-half, but the heritage people said we couldn’t have it higher than the building next door. And because of flood possibilities we had to raise the building up so that compromised what we could fit in.


What would you have done with the extra space? Doug: The biggest improvement I can see would be another meeting room. We are so busy fulfilling the meeting room requests we have to turn down quite a lot. I’d like more businesses to use the facilities as a meeting place but we have to work very hard currently to squeeze it all in. We have more than 800 paid room bookings a year, which is a huge number.


expect in a community of around 10,000.”


Will there be another big fundraising drive further down the road? Doug: We will see. We certainly have a significant fund in place and if the lift motor or air conditioning fails then we are in the position to cope with that. It depends what the requirement is and how far we are down the line. The Flavel does not receive any regular funding from any council or government agency. This has been a deliberate policy, which we have been able to follow, to preserve our independence and avoid the severe difficulties, which some other venues have faced when their grant is suddenly withdrawn. Funding for specific items, such as equipment, from the government and councils has, of course, been sought and given.


There was a groundswell of support when you started but is there a danger the community could become complacent about the Flavel?


“There is a lot more of cultural activity here than you might


Doug: In the broader sense, com- petition in the arts scene has grown and everyone has raised their game. The visual quality of live screening has had a bit of an effect on local dramatic society; people back at home have got smart televi- sions with amazing home cinema systems. This does impinge on the Flavel’s core business and the result is we have to work harder to fill the place. We have upped the game in terms of publicity, marketing and advertising.


Variety is one of the Flavel’s great strengths but what is the one thing, which if lost, would have a critical impact on the success of the centre? Doug: The cinema is very important as it provides an underlying vitality to the Centre and it means there is always something happening. It would be a huge change and a mistake to shut on say Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays as there would just be nothing on.


Ray: Films are so important, that they actually influence the revenue of the Flavel quite dramatically. If you have a year of terrible films and nobody comes it flattens the takings. When Mamma Mia was released it had a disproportionate impact on our income for the entire year because the Flavel was stuffed full every night. To some extent, no matter how brilliant the manage- ment of the Flavel is, you are at the mercy of the filmmakers and screen- ing of events etc. It is a tough world.


Doug: We mustn’t forget also that the library and café are fundamental to our success in attracting a wide range of people across the commu- nity and creating a strong communi- ty feel about the place. The café has a really important influence on the atmosphere of the whole building.


Has the growth in live screening of arts events had an impact? Doug: It’s driven by technology and the purchase of our digital projector was the start of it. We did without that for about five years, so it was a huge change. Once you could plug into the live screenings suddenly the London stage came to


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