Residents react with sadness as Winchester Theater Arts looks set to leave The Worthys Jubilee Hall

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Residents reacted with sadness to the news that a long-established art school is looking for a new home after spending more than four decades in the same village hall.

Winchester Theater Arts has been teaching dance and musical theater to children in Kings Worthy for 45 years.

Based in Jubilee Hall, the family business started with just 15 students on a Saturday morning.

It is now home to 10 times that number, welcoming students as young as three years old and supervising them up to 19 years old.

However, as noted earlier by the Cchronic, School principal Claire Goodwin said her hours had recently been reduced by school administrators.

Registered with the Charities Commission, the trustees told him they felt the room should instead be made available for later ‘community use’.

This, coupled with rising rental costs, forced her to consider moving the much-loved organization to new pastures.

Steeped in history, Ms Goodwin said while this could prove to be an exciting step in the school’s journey, it will be an equally emotional moment when the curtain falls on her time in the hall.

However, the decision has drawn anger from parents and former students who say Ms Goodwin was treated “unfairly”.

Robina Hatchett has known Ms Goodwin since she started the group in 1977. Her daughter and granddaughter are currently students.

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She said: “Thousands of children have passed through the school and now Claire is welcoming the third generation of local children. Claire, Laura and their whole team have worked hard over these years, improving conditions at the inside and outside the room, even paying for new chairs for the enjoyment of all users, replacing older and less comfortable seats.

“It is therefore devastating for everyone linked to the group to learn that the new rental conditions from next month will prevent them from continuing to train in their current location.

“Why haven’t the administrators recognized the importance of allowing the school to continue to use the premises? The venue will lose a significant amount of money per month when the drama school is no longer there – d will all the new tenants come from to make up for this shortfall?

“What will happen to this amazing local dance and theater school if they can’t find alternative venues to hold their classes? And what will happen to the venue if they don’t find other tenants in the future?

Sarah Cronin and her sister were students at Winchester Theater Arts for 15 years. Now her daughter, 4, and her niece, 5, are both taking lessons. She says Ms Goodwin was disappointed with the ‘politics’ among the directors.

She said: ‘The school does so much for the village and various local causes – they have raised £2,500 for Ukraine this year.’

She added: “It’s an inclusive school which really helps to build the confidence of young people; it helped me a lot with my shyness as a child. There’s no pressure to look or be in a way and in today’s social media-influenced world, it’s so refreshing for kids to be able to go somewhere where they’re not judged by their peers.”

Having just finished their annual show – which saw more than 130 children perform over three days – Ms Goodwin said no move was imminent and the school would continue to use both the venue and its studio for the moment.

Room administrators have been contacted for comment.

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