A MEETING giving people a chance to have their say on plans for the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds has been described as “constructive”.

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Plans to merge the Theatre Royal and the Apex – another arts and entertainment venue in the town – have been shelved, but the theatre has been consulting on how it can best move forward.

The theatre has come up with broad partnership proposals with the Apex, including sharing a box office and a co-ordinated approach to programming.

A public meeting was held on Tuesday evening at the Guildhall as part of the consultation period, which ends today.

Heather Phillips, of the Theatre Support Group (TSG), which was launched out of concern for the theatre’s future, said it was a “constructive meeting”, adding people felt they were being listened to.

She said the proposals were showing “very, very encouraging developments now”.

“At the moment it’s a fairly broad brush stroke plan which has broad support, but we will look forward to seeing more of the detail,” she added.

Mrs Phillips said one of the important points that was raised at the meeting was the hope for broader programming - a combination of the more established work, such as Shakespeare, and that which is more innovative.

“What is important is the programme for all arts organisations, but of course the theatre, appeals to the widest possible audiences.”

She said a more joined up arts scene in west Suffolk “could be a very positive thing” and the more organisations can work together to promote what is going on the better.

Simon Daykin, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, said he was “very pleased” with how the public meeting had gone.

He said there was a good turnout and mix of people.

“This was a genuine commitment to reach out to our public and to get their views about all aspects because the consultation doesn’t just focus on whether it’s a good idea to work with the Apex. It talks about all aspects of the theatre’s activities.”

He said there was a good debate about the specifics of the partnership proposal, such as a shared box office, but also on issues such as the perception of the theatre.

He said it was also about the theatre not being afraid to take criticism.

He added: “We realise we are not perfect and it was an opportunity for people to help us to be better.”

The theatre’s board will discuss consultation comments at a meeting in March and a response will be posted on www.artsandminds-tr.org

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