THERE is 'trouble at mill' and in this case 'mill' is the Regal in Tenbury.

What is less clear is exactly what the trouble is, but it could hardly have come at a worst time than when the venue was gearing up for its biggest show of the year – the annual pantomime.

Firstly as a volunteer and then for the past four years as general manager, Ian Little has been part of the fixtures and fittings at the Regal.

His departure was as unexpected as it was clearly less than amicable.

At this point, perhaps a bit of history might help.

Built in the 1930s, the Regal is one of the few remaining examples of cinemas built in the inter-war years. It has had a somewhat turbulent history.

However, as a result of its heritage value, about five years ago the Regal was the subject of a lottery-funded refurbishment worth more than £600,000.

It is a community building owned by Tenbury Town Council which, up until that time, also undertook the running of the venue with what can, perhaps, charitably be described as mixed results.

Following the refurbishment, it was quite properly decided that a town council was not best equipped to run an entertainment venue and so an independent trust, including experts from the field, was established and granted the day-to-day running of the Regal on a long lease.

This caused some dismay among local groups including the now defunct TADS (Tenbury Amateur Dramatic Society). There were some concerns that it would become less of a community venue and too much of a commercial operation.

However, the general consensus has been that it was the right thing to do and, in the ensuing period, the Regal has generally been regarded as a success.

Ian Little has played no small part in that success and that has been acknowledged by the trustees despite what appears to be a fairly acrimonious falling out.

As far as can be ascertained, the relationship between Ian and the trustees has been somewhat akin to that between a chief executive and a board of directors.

It seems that the reason for the falling out of love is a combination of what might be considered normal employer-and-employee issues related to terms of conditions and some factors around policy and direction.

If there is any significant change of policy and direction, then it is to be hoped that the trustees will make it clear what they have in mind.

The more professional approach to running the Regal in recent years has been a good thing and Adey Ramsel, the new general manager, looks to have a strong CV and some interesting ideas.

But the Regal is not, and should not be, run entirely as a commercial operation.

It is an asset owned by the town council on behalf of the people of Tenbury and a strong community element needs to remain part of its remit.

The Regal has been a success and thanks are due to Ian Little and the trustees. Hopefully this will continue as the venue moves forward ‘under new management'.