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Friday, October 9, 1998 Published at 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK


No happy ending in sight for Sadler's Wells

Refit was aided by 30m of lottery money

One of the showpiece arts venues funded by the National Lottery is due to open on Saturday, but the Sadlers Wells Theatre, in North London, looks like having anything but a happy first night, as BBC arts correspondent Rosie Millard reports.

The renovation programme over-ran and 500 builders were having to work 24 hours a day to complete the work in time for its formal opening.

[ image: Dame Margot Fonteyn: one of many dancers to have appeared at the Islington theatre]
Dame Margot Fonteyn: one of many dancers to have appeared at the Islington theatre
The theatre itself has still not been finished and companies hoping to perform in its first year have pulled out.

The opening of the new Sadlers Wells theatre on October 10 was to symbolise the fruition of lottery dreams.

Instead, it may send shivers down the spine of fellow arts institutions across the country.

Building works on the lavish 48m dance theatre are by no means finished. Ballet Rambert, which opens on Saturday night, is concerned about a lack of heating and the local authority has refused to issue formal entertainment licenses.

In addition, the troubled Royal Opera House company which was booked to come into Sadlers Wells for six months while its own rebuilding was taking place has now pulled out.

Arts commentators say that deal was a disaster waiting to happen.

[ image: Norman Lebrecht: 'Royal Opera House pull-out was inevitable']
Norman Lebrecht: 'Royal Opera House pull-out was inevitable'
"You can't stage international opera in a house with only 1,500 seats, you're going to lose a packet - that was always clear.

"Now with the company losing far more money during its closure than was ever envisaged it was simply inevitable that they had to get out of this deal," said Daily Telegraph arts critic Norman Lebrecht.

Unless Sadlers Wells receives support to replace these lost performances its director says its own future is in jeopardy.

As a venue which saw performances by Dame Margot Fonteyn and, which is regarded by many as the birthplace of modern British dance, Sadlers Wells inhabits a special place in British history.

Whether it can now take up its intended role as our premier dance house is now very much open to question.

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