The Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra (TWSO) has been playing for 89 seasons with a regular audience of 900. It is a community orchestra made up of amateur musicians augmented by professionals and internationally acclaimed soloists. The orchestra brings together different age groups and encourages a sense of local pride.

Will our proposed new theatre respect and enhance this contribution?

Unfortunately not, JJ Almond the Theatre Director of the Assembly Halls, has said the proposed new theatre is designed for electronic music appropriate for touring musicals. In technical terms this means the auditorium has a short reverberation time (1 second).

Symphonic music depends on a wash of sound requiring a reverberation time of 1.8 to 2.2 seconds otherwise it sounds dry and unsatisfactory to both the musicians and audience threatening the orchestra’s long term viability.

This apparent choice between electronic and orchestral music is not inevitable. Modern concert halls have overcome the problem by using adjustable acoustic baffles which can modify the reverberation time to suit the music whether it’s electronic, operatic or classical.

Another challenge is will the TWSO be able to afford the new venue?

The Council has guaranteed to provide the venue at a “discounted rate” for 3 years: after that there is no guarantee that the TWSO will be able to afford the proposed theatre.

So from the start we will have worse sound quality and after 3 years it is possibly the venue will be unaffordable.

Does this sound as though we are building the cultural hub we have been promised?