Ventnor Winter Gardens To Close (Updated)

Venue to close in January

Sad news reaches us about the Ventnor Winter Gardens – the Town Clerk of the Ventnor Town Council tells us that because the Isle of Wight council intend to dispose of the Winter Gardens by 31 March 2011, VTC say they have no alternative but to close it next month. This statement just in from Ventnor Town clerk. Ed

Since 1995 Ventnor Town Council has run the Winter Gardens under a Management Agreement with its owners, the Isle of Wight Council. An annual management fee has been paid by the IoW Council to the Town Council.

This has been used as a subsidy against running costs. In addition the town itself has subsidised the Winter Gardens annually by way of the locally raised part of the Council Tax, the precept.

In the current economic circumstances both Councils have had to reassess those subsidies. Recently, intensive talks have taken place between the County and Town Councils to try to ensure a future for the Winter Gardens which will best serve the interests of Ventnor.

IWC to dispose of building
After careful consideration of the implications of the IoW Council’s need to dispose of the Winter Gardens by 31 March 2011 and a thorough assessment of the condition of the building, the loss of the Management fee, the trading activity and the precept subsidies necessary to support it, in the context of the likely devolution of other services, Ventnor Town Council has regretfully judged that it cannot justify taking ownership of the site from 1 April.

Conscious of its duty to mitigate the known losses of the remaining out-of-season trading months, Ventnor Town Council has agreed to the closure of the building by 31 January 2011. Staff have been informed, redundancy notices are being issued and trading will cease on 21 January 2011.

Public meeting will explain decision
Ventnor Town Council will be holding a public meeting at the Winter Gardens on 12 January to set out the background to their decision and a joint statement with the Isle of Wight Council, with whom the Town Council will continue to work in partnership over the building’s future, will be issued on 4 January 2011

Update – This statement in from the IW Council Press Office

Ventnor Town Council has indicated to IW Council that it can no longer run the attraction and wishes to end its current management arrangement in the New Year.

Under the agreement, the town council runs the building and is given an annual subsidy from IW Council which adds to the subsidy provided by the Town Council itself.

The Winter Gardens will therefore close on 31 January 2011. After this date, IW Council and Ventnor Town Council will work together to seek expressions of interest from groups and organisations who may be interested in taking over the building and continuing to provide public access to it.

The facility will be unavailable for a period of time after this date whilst the council formally seeks expressions of interest.

George Brown, Isle of Wight Council Deputy Leader said “While it is unfortunate that the town council has had to end its current management arrangements. I fully understand the reasons given the current financial pressures we are all facing.

“Both ourselves and the town council are determined though that this well appreciated facility should, if at all, possible continue to provide for the needs of the community but under different management arrangements at without public subsidy.

“We look forward to receiving proposals in response to the expressions of interest that we will be issuing in the New Year and to the Town Council’s support in identifying the best option for the benefit of the Town as a whole.”

Wednesday, 29th December, 2010 5:18pm



Filed under: Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Ventnor

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121 Comments on "Ventnor Winter Gardens To Close (Updated)"

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Alan Mansell

What about all the shows that are booked there next year?

Bass Gurl

The Barron Knights? Variety shows? Cabaret performers?

Sorry Alan, people aren’t interested in this kind of show anymore.

The Winter Gardens is not a cruise ship, it’s a music venue.

Shame not more was done to increase the capacity, so bands of worth could be tempted down.


re-open the Rail track and it might have a chance

Alan Mansell

I heard that ticket sales were doing well. But then it wasn’t organised by the council, but by someone who felt it was a good idea.

Piers Young

The average age of people on the island is around 65 so there are a lot of people interested in that type of act.


Whos syas people are not interested in these kinds of shows.

Did you attend teh Drifters concert at Shanklin Theatre in November, I did, and it was packed out.

The events scheduled are more than likely to be cancelled, unless they were organised by a promoter (not the venue) who may wish to move them to another venue..although I can’t see where. As for increasing the capacity, this isn’t necessarily needed, it’s not the bands being tempted down, it’s the promoters choosing to use the venue, it’s only 100 off the Wedgerooms, Venue, Ryde (which has… Read more »
Ventnor Vintner
Ash came as they needed a venue beginning with V for their ‘A to Z’ tour. Let us not pretend that they would have been at the Winter Gardens otherwise. I am not an expert, but having spoken to a local promoter I believe that a 600 capacity venue (rather than the 400 that the WG is) would be more viable in terms of attracting promoters who… Read more »

But a promoter still chose to bring them to the Isle of Wight…


People really need to get a reality check about the costs involved.

Who do you think you would get for £2000.

Bootleg Blondie..a good covers band are £1500 80’s disco band are £4000.
BB King about £14K.

A venue like this..and my own music venue in Newport needs to be multi-functional and supported by dedicated audiences on a regular basis


Okay, that was an example. You could charge £15 a ticket. A sell out gig would then rake in £6000. I know how much these people cost and you can’t get much for these prices, but the Wedgerooms do it. Yes they’re a 500 capacity venue, but charge a little extra for a ticket to cover that and you’re rolling..


look at Wedgwood Room prices.

Our Friday night Price runs from £2 to £5…we tried quality acts from the Mainland at £8 …people complained it was too expensive.

Piers Young

The promoter for 70 odd shows that are booked there next year is Harry Darby Media, and no there’s not really anywhere the shows could go. So the closing down of the Winter Gardens would be a great shame because these shows would have helped turn over quite a good profit for the place


MAYBE they would….but why no more shows at Shanklin Theatre after his ‘great success’

Piers Young

The Directors of Shanklin Theatre decided that they no longer wanted the shows to be at Shanklin Theatre. There’s something a bit strange going on at Shanklin Theatre in my opinion


well maybe they had good reason!!!!!!!


Their good reason probably was that they haven’t a clue what they are doing and they were jealous of someone else’s success. The committee is made up of members of the Shanklin Town Council who couldn’t even provide a Christmas Tree in Shanklin this year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

or maybe there is another reason!!!! There are Shanklin Town Council members on the Board, there are also established FOST members on the board and professionals that have run businesses for decades. Now why would they have a problem with Harry Darby who a mere month ago was heralding himself as the saviour of Shanklin Theatre. There were two Christmas Trees in Shanklin this year…as there has… Read more »

…and lets not forget that it is the sole action of Shanklin Town Councillors that have virtually ensured a future for Shanklin Theatre

For how long is the success assured when the shows put on through the summer months are mainly repeats of the previous year – most Island visitors return each year and would like to see something different. Was it the competition introduced by Harry Darby Media that led to the decision not to host his summer shows that led to the ‘falling out’? Dominic Pope is I… Read more »



Income from HD shows contributed 2% of theatre takings and the cons outweighed the pro’s…even if they could get volenteers to ever work with him again


Further deatils of Shanklins Theatres dealing with Mr. Darby in the CP today.

I also see from the WG, that no deposits have been made for the ‘theoretical 70 acts’ he has booked.

Wonder who else hasn’t been paid.

Dominic Popes shows make up about 50% of the theatres income. Whne Darby finally pays up his input will be about 2.5%. The shows at Shanklin Theatre are not the same each year..They may have the same ‘Songs from the West End’, but they are new shows each year featuring current songs from teh West End. As a local hotel to the Theatre, I can tell… Read more »

Mainly because that’s their only income year after year? Maybe that’s why it was in danger of closing


The shows where sold no.

The reason the Theatre was failing before was in-experienced management and in-appropriate acts.

Jim Davison was a sell out act, but he cost as much as the theatre took

and on top of that failure of the council to maintain the building.

Hopefully those days are now over


So it becomes clear at last why Harry Darby Media was rejected by Shanklin Theatre and The Winter Gardens as he has fled the Island in the face of fraud allegations.


I do feel sorry for Harry Darby supporters.

Sailor Sam

His web site appears to havec dissapeard… and did he not have a shop in Shanklin High Street?


Shop closed overnight early last week.


So now the speculation starts:- to be sold to whom? & why? and on what ‘commercial’ terms? and what planning issues will be involved? It has ‘poo’ and yards of copy, written all over it:)!


It is marked down with land behind through to Devonshire Terrace/ Battery Gardens as a landscapped gated community, Working title – Eastcliffe Development, Ventnor?


I guess this means that our council tax will reduce next year and we can get some improvements to the town at last


With the iw council planning to push public services onto town councils we can all expect the precept part of our council tax to rise considerably Bluey.


Hopefully a private company will take over this venue, and expand on the reputation and services it has to offer.


In addition to my comment…

Would be an idea place for someone like Platform One to take over, or even the production company ‘Flyte’, however I suspect it will go to a mainland company.

It’s nice to try and keep things local, but I don’t think anyone who could benefit has the capital to take on such an establishment, unfortunately.


Its an ideal site for a hotel.


They could advertise in TICs!
Derelict within 2 years,flats within 5.


Dream on, most existing hotels in Ventnor are struggling.

fat boy fat
Public toilets to close, winter gardens closing, the council may need to save money what about David Cameron’s big society. It’s a great shame the Winter Gardens is closing but with the amount of money needing to be spent on it perhaps not surprising. Thank you Isle of Wight council for years of under investment. Perhaps the new block of flats for mainlanders to have a second… Read more »
Isle of Wight Bob

It’s a absolute disgrace the way our Council is dealing with the economic situation on our Island. Closing and or side shifting Local amenities. This will back fire and show on numbers that holiday next year. Shame on you.

Inside eyes

No private company in their right mind would take on a venue that needs so much work doing, just look at ryde theatre still sitting there nearly a year on. They couldn’t even shift that place to the retail industry.

Steephill Jack

It’s time to contemplate the demolition of the Winter Gardens. The site is not entirely stable either, so even the building potential is limited.

They are laughing at you
They’ll close it down, Platform 1 will open up Ryde theatre with less competition. Council have let our musical heritage and potential tourist attraction go down the pan. Sold off the rights to the festival for a few private beer tents.I guess that’s how the world really works whilst everyone else smokescreens and wax’s lyrical about the same old story. Bestival gets voted best ‘larger’ festival in… Read more »
Isle of Wight Bob

WELL SAID: They are laughing at you says: Agree with that….


Ryde Theatre will not be re-opening and the WG was never its competition.

The WG main problem (apart from local apathy) was inadequat/ unreliable transport…Try leaving the WG on a Thurday night a 2AM and getting out of Ventnor.

..and thank God for the smoking ban, those of us who actually do go out thank whichever government was responsible

Tim Saul
What sad news. Unfortunately it is not entirely surprising, given the decades of expert neglect and lack of maintenance to the structure by the (not necessarily) good ole’ IWCC. We have a similar building in Rothesay, Isle of Bute, which is crumbling after years of neglect by successive councils. However since ours is a grade A listed structure, there is some pressure on our local authority to… Read more »

There is to be a public meeting which i think needs to be extremely well attended with positive minded people on the 12th Jan at the WG.
What time is the meeting? 7:30?

I agree. At this meeting the obvious accusation will be made that the VTC have wasted the massively increased council tax precept on enormous salary bills, and brought the WG closure to a head. By failing, they have handed the IOWC the chance of selling it on a plate. However, no progress will be made unless other organisations are encouraged to put forward alternative solutions. Did the… Read more »
Steephill Jack

Can you tell us Bluey who was getting these “enormous salaries” that VTC were paying ?


Fully agree that the VTC have totally mismanaged the Winter Gardens operation over the past two years. What is the size of the loss for 2010/11 on the Winter Gardens bar, catering and entertainment activities? NO management accounts have been published (if produced) since the end of March 2010. Are the VTC prepared to come clean or will they forever hide behind the cloak of “commercial sensitivity”!

steve s

And prior to that, Orquidea? Was VTC managing the Winter Gardens to your satisfaction?

Steephill Jack
Here we go again: it’s inevitable that the factions in support of the old and new VTC regimes will use the Winter Gardens crisis to throw mud at each other. Much better would be to work towards a solution together with the toilets, libraries, lifeguards and Botanic Garden which IOWCC have decided, at very short notice, to stop funding. The meeting on 12th January is a public… Read more »
Really.. I spoke to the people running VWG last year, and as someone with years of experience of promotion and event managment, said then that I did not envy the job required to turn the WG around following the years of mis-managment and mis-direction from the operators and Island council. People live in cloud cuckoo land with no experience of the job and imagine they could do… Read more »
Another loss of a service, i actually ask what the IWCC can offer people now?? Bit by bit we are loosing everything we have on the island. I hope that the people of ventnor will rally round and show support to help keep this building open. The other problem seems to be that NO local Councillors actually CARE enough about it. the theatre gives many opportunities to… Read more »

why should they ..they never did when it was open

Harry Darby

Closure has come as a shock to Harry Darby Media, we have nearly 70 Shows booked in the next few months appealing to Residents and Tourists alike. We are ready to buy or lease the Theatre – will you support us?


How many deposits have been paid for those ‘nearly 70’ shows?


I would support you, in as many ways as I can, baring in mind I am only a teenager, but one that is very keen and motivted…
But how much would the theatre be going for?…


Over a million pounds in the price is irrelevent


its not a million maintenace fees, the site has been valued at 250 grand, thats all, a bargin…


The site is probably worth that…without the WG on it. The WG and the site will need over a million in maintance


I will support as much as i can, i have only heard good news about Harry Darby Media.


who did you speak too?


My close family and friends have been to several of his shows and have said how good they were, also on his facebook page, the reviews and comments from people have been amazing.


You’ll find most of those reviews are by people that advertise in his brochure…

Quality of the shows should never be the deciding factor over choice of promoter.


Your family and friends can’t have been to several of Harry Darby’s shows, he’s only done two – Victorian Music Hall and Drifters!


Trust you have read the ‘good news’ in today’s County Press!


I went to your Drifters Concertn with my girlfriend, both of us enjoyed it. Hope you manage to continue at the Winter Gardens in 2011.

Victor Meldrew

If Harry Derby is serious why not ask VTC to ask for a Community Assett Transfer for a nominal sum then lease to Harry Derby. A CAT to a Community Interest Company fronted by VTC could then access grants and other funding streams. Just a thought!!


As reported in the County Press, Mr Darby has suddenly left the Island and police are currently investigating an allegation of fraud!

This is just the beginning of the end people, I was born on the island and am now raising my family here. I think the Isle of Wight is absolutely the best place to live and grow. I have always been a conformist, left wing (ha!),law abiding citizen, paying my way and believing in what I am told, however after having our own business for less than… Read more »

Does that Council Leader David Pugh, come to mind?

They are laughing at you
Seems ironic that with two of the best and largest music festivals in the UK capitalizing on our Island, we have lost more music venues than ever before for the people that actually try to live & perform here. They have finally sewn it all up for themselves. Local bands left begging for slots, students trained for the dole after a brief bit of glory on the… Read more »

We have been gifted with loads of very talented musicians on the Island and Platform One to assist their progress.

Shame we don’t have an audience for them.

Maybe it is the festivals that have caused this


No.5 – Do you happen to manage Platform One?


I afraid not….all we did was provide a platform for their BTEC Year 2 class. We had hoped to get further involved with the College, but it never happened

Well done to all you people who filled in the forms issued not so long ago asking what could be done to improve the Winter Gardens. At least you tried. I wonder what that little exercise cost? It was obviously introduced to cover the backs of those who probably already knew what was going to happen with the venue – “Well we did ask for local opinion… Read more »
Steephill Jack

There were only 80 responses to the consultation on the Winter Gardens which shows just how much the people of Ventnor really care about the place. ‘Nuf said.

80 responses – that is better than I thought. The forms were not exactly easy to find, when I got mine a few people asked me how and where I got them. And I do think quite a lot of people care about the Winter Gardens – they just know resistance is futile. I think a lot of people have realised that we have no say in… Read more »
steve s

The forms were available from the Winter Gardens (the clue is in the name!) and many other outlets around the town. Anybody who was unable to get hold of a copy probably wasn’t trying very hard.

Yes Steve I am fully aware of where the forms were. However, not everybody reads the blog and I am sure there were many people who were not aware of the forms at all (I cant recall any posters in the venue even, although I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong.) Considering the VTC are bleating about what a terrible drain the Winter… Read more »
Christopher Bonney
Helanbak, I am very sorry you were unaware of how hard the VTC worked to publicise the Winter Gardens consultation. Especially as you live over the road and there was ample publicity. Leaflets and posters appeared from the Botanic Gardens to the Library and there were prize draws to encourage people to participate. In fact, we put on a pretty comprehensive exhibition about the background and history… Read more »
Chris, I knew about the campaign (please re-read my comment.) Others may have not been aware. These comments arose because it was mentioned by another author that only 80 people responded. And yes thankyou for mentioning that fact that being so local (good job I am not too precious about my identity!) I personally did see what was done in the venue. I am sure there are… Read more »
Steephill Jack I think anyone who can count can work out that more that 80 people care about the winter gardens – what a ridiculous comment. I doubt any of those forms were actually taken seriously. A futile effort for the council to cover their backs. There are over 100 members in Ventnor Theatre Group alone who regularly perform musicals and pantomimes in the venue year after… Read more »
Gillian Jenner
That’s my “futile effort” you’re talking about! I spent a lot of time during the summer, including putting my own one-woman business on hold for seven days, to complete all the exhibition preparations. There was a similar commitment from Cllrs Bonney and George and much assistance, on the exhibition side from the Ventnor History Society. None of us saw this as a back-covering exercise, but as the… Read more »
Christopher Bonney
REEH, I CAN count – and 82 people thought they would make their comments where and when it counted. If we cannot get you to take the feedback process seriously, then you get what you get. It was widely available and in a form that encouraged those who genuinely care, rather than those who just like to sound off, to give the matter serious consideration. I am… Read more »

well said. I cant remember if your part of the county council as well, but if not, make sure you stand at the next local elections.

chris bonney i was not implying that you cant count, i was pointing out that you cant assume that only 80-82 people care due to the number of forms filled in. The public meeting on the 12th proved that! Please be assured that i do care deeply about the future of the winter gardens, i do not just intend to ‘sound off’. Im sorry to offend gillian… Read more »
steve s

REEH. You’ll be relieved to discover, I’m sure, that you, and others like you, now have the opportunity to “do everything you can to keep it as your home” It’ll make a nice change from posting facile, ill-informed comment on blogs.

I’ve been wondering for a while… at what point does councillor bashing on blogs become libellous?

Steephill Jack

Hi REEH. Where ya bin ?


Sorry if you think my comment ill informed, but as a frequent user of the winter gardens it frustrates me to see it crumble. The phrase “too little, too late” comes to mind. I actually admire the VTC for doing the best thing they could considering the circumstances and admitting defeat.

Certainly the Island is going to the ‘dogs’ and is being accelated by the Town and Island Councils. Millions of Island taxpayers money spent on Consultants to review what to do with the Military Road and Undercliff (and still nothing happens), millions of pounds spent to subsidise free buses for non-islanders (who wouldn’t actually mind paying something towards the fare), etc. etc – in return the council… Read more »

very well said…..


Harry Darby talks a good talk………………….

Whst Is the possibility of viewing the winter Gardens accounts?? Apart from using the WG as a venue for bands which Is I agree very popular it also plays hosts to many theatre productions, panto, musicals etc etc. Often over a 1000 people may attend a theatrical show at the winter gardens, (when not put on by the WG). Also I wonder how many Of the VTC… Read more »

All requests for proper management accounts have been refused by the town clerk – even under a Freedom of Information request – on the grounds of commercial sensitivity!
Why cannot the Council come clean and admit the scale of losses?
Come the next local elections this will be a hot topic!!

Ventnor Vintner

A hypothetical situation which I pose to all readers of this story:

If you had it in your power to save from closure ONE of the following, which one would you choose?:

1: The Ventnor Botanic Garden
2: The Ventnor Winter Gardens
3: The Ventnor Library
4: All the public toilets scheduled for closure on the island.

Please feel free to add your reasoning too.

The people of Ventnor must try to keep the WGs from closing it is the hub of your town with its glorious position, I have been to so many events there, shows, dance lessons exhibitions and all have been great fun. Surely this lovely old building will not be demolished to make way for more flats for overners to live two weeks of the year. There are… Read more »
mark francis
Actually I do not use the Winter gardens and its fate does not specifically impact on me – but that is not the point. The point is that people do not want to come on holiday to a town that isd full of derelict buildings – as Ventnor certainly has been along the seafront for some time. Nationally seaside towns are seen as pockets of deprivation &… Read more »
Debby Robinson

To clarify:
1/ County Council officers e.g. Chief Executive, Steve Beynon are paid an awful lot of money.

2/ County Councillors are paid what amounts to glorified expenses which, if they sit on loads of committees, can almost reach a living wage.

3/ Town Councillors are not paid. They are volunteers.


Town councillors put their name forward for election on the basis that the job is unpaid but rewarding from a community help perspective.

They are appointed moreever to represent the views of the residents and local taxpayers NOT their own personal views and opinions. If they cannot do this then they should not accept the position in the first place or resign.


Don’t the residents have a broad variety of often opposing views? In which case, when deciding to resign and abandon this town to the vagaries of the Isle of Wight council’s politics, which are the views that the Town Council should represent and which are the ones they should ignore?


Oh!! Is THAT why so many of them HAVE resigned in the past couple of years!!!!!

steve s

There are still places available on VTC, Orquidea.
Oh, sorry, I forgot, you’re too busy, aren’t you?


Is the Mayor resigning then for not representing the opinions and views of Ventnor residents? Perhaps VTC are spending time producing MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTS of the Winter Gardens to publish at the meeting re the Winter Gardens. But again this is very doubtful giben the track record of the VTC in recent times.

So you have researched the opinion of Ventnor then…… Maybe the accounts are taken so long because of the state the previous ones were left in….How on earth would you come up with a starting figure for starters. At least this VTC are being realistic..nobody in Ventnor would accept the Council Tax hike to cover running the WG without the subsidy from the council, let alone the… Read more »

Steve Beynon is hardly a typical officer. Most officers have been poorly paid compared to national (not Island) standards despite being required to obtain specific qualifications, often at their own cost.

docile denny

Parish Councillors are not paid either and on my parish council they claim no out of pocket expenses.

Easter Rising

After running the Winter Gardens into the ground what’s the bet that you and your friends will buy the site from the receivers?

Steephill Jack
Encouraging news in the County Press today where Maureen Cawley, Chair of the Winter Gardens Action Group, says “we will do all we can to help people take it on- we are convinced it has a future.” Promoter Harry Darby is also quoted (as he says above)”I am prepared to lease the venue while I negotiate buying it.” So it would seem that these two could get… Read more »

Is that a good idea??????

Quote from the IW Council “The Winter Gardens will therefore close on 31 January 2011. After this date, IW Council and Ventnor Town Council will work together to seek expressions of interest from groups and organisations…” Does anyone else find it curious that the council will only work with people after they closed it? Why not start working with people now? A month of indecision will only… Read more »

You would need a lot of confidence to book acts for a closed venue wouldn’t you?
Unless you knew something that the public ratepayers didn’t!


And now the Studio’s gone…
Not good for the Island at all!


please don’t shut it and if it has to be someone needs to take control of the venue asap because it means alot to alot of people. Something has to be done

the buiding is in such an amazing place which is wonderful for the tourists and brilliant views for people who just want to sit outside and enjoy their surroundings. The ventnor winter gardens are steeped in so much history. I recently found out that my mums dad worked there many years ago. A change would be good but they must keep the structure to improve at least.… Read more »
Steephill Jack

I see that the presentation that was made at the Winter Gardens meeting on 12th Jan. is now on the Town Council website:

Mr.&Mrs A Flux
We feel very sad that the Winter Gardens are closing it’s been a beautiful place to visit over the year’s and this year on holiday we will really miss it. After all it is a holiday island and it seems that all these changes will turn people away from holidaying there as so much has become run down. Shanklin for instance. I appreciate that it all revolves… Read more »
Linda Chester

There IS a group exploring the possibility of “saving it” :-)
see for more information and how to get involved.

Mr.&Mrs A Flux

Thankyou for that! we do hope so, even if it means paying an entrance fee, I am sure most people would do that. I just hope it does’nt take too long, I also feel for the staff, who have worked so hard to make it such a beautiful place. J. Flux