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Amateur dramatic groups will face an increase of almost £1,000 a week to hire the Electric Theatre from 2017.A notice of the new fees was announced to performers across Guildford as the borough council stated that the next stage of deciding the future of the Onslow Street venue was under way.For the last year and a half the council has been deciding what to do with the theatre.

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Supporters and amateur theatre groups rallied around in an attempt to save the building as a community asset, but warned that ticket prices may now rise in the face of hiked hiring fees.

Following a public consultation towards the end of last year, the council agreed the building would retain "an element" of community use when the lease is taken over by a new operator.

A spokesman for the Guildford Amateur Dramatics Society (GATA) said: “GATA continues to work closely with GBC (Guildford Borough Council) and is happy to announce that GATA groups have been able to book slots at the Electric Theatre in 2017, which the new management will have to honour.

“The cost for amateur groups to hire the Electric Theatre is substantially higher than previous years and due to new legislation is also now plus VAT.

“GATA groups have had to think carefully about this increase and there will be additional pressure to cover costs.

“It’s worth noting that we also pay the venue 13% of every ticket sold, on top of our hire fee, which already puts extra pressure on tight budgets.

“GATA has campaigned for community theatre at affordable rates and although we are reluctant to see a rise in ticket prices this might occur as a consequence of the new Electric Theatre hire rate.

“However, we are cautiously optimistic about the future and look forward to discussions with the new leaseholder to ensure that amateur and community theatre at an affordable price will still be a possibility beyond the end of 2017.

“There is a long road ahead and we eagerly wait to see how ‘an element of community use’ is eventually defined.” The rate for GATA groups to hire the venue for a week will rise from £1,472 to £2,020 from 2017.

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