Due to the discovery of asbestos above the auditorium by independent inspectors, Swindon Council and theatre management company Hethrington-Seelig have had to shut the Wyvern whilst it is removed.
In the meantime, the Council is working with the theatre management to find an alternative venue for scheduled events.
Nearly all of the asbestos found at the Wyvern is contained within the roof space, although very low amounts have also been found within the auditorium itself. Extensive air testing within the auditorium has shown that the asbestos levels are well within the acceptable range set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Members of the public who have visited the Wyvern can therefore be reassured that they have not been at risk during their time in the building.
Air tests within the roof space and other non-public areas have also shown airborne asbestos levels to be within the acceptable range set by the HSE.
Expert advice to the Council is that the risk of any theatre or Council staff who have been in those areas contracting an asbestos-related illness is low. However, given that these areas are where most of the asbestos has been found, we fully understand any concerns they may have and all are being given appropriate help and advice about their level of exposure to asbestos and its potential effects.
Some members of the public connected with amateur productions at the theatre, and outside contractors, have also been inside the roof space. Initial advice is available to anyone with concerns about this on 01793 463000.
All the clean-up work at the Wyvern will be carried out by a specialist contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. The full extent of this work will be finalised this week but it is likely to involve the removal of equipment, seats and furnishings from within the auditorium.
Although levels of contamination are low, the Council?s decision to close the theatre on public health grounds has been fully supported by the HSE, as has the decision to clear all items from the auditorium.
To ensure value for money, the Council will have to competitively procure a contractor to carry out the removal work, and is therefore unable to give a cost for the projected works at this stage.
The asbestos residue from within the roof void appears to date from work undertaken around twenty years ago to remove sprayed asbestos lagging from beams inside the roof.
Swindon Borough Council is investigating why inspections carried out by accredited contractors in 2002 and 2004 did not reveal the presence of asbestos. When the findings of this investigation are available the Council will consider its legal position.
Removal of the asbestos is the top priority for the Council and management company of the theatre. Both parties are working closely to explore all the options for maintaining the schedule of performances in the short to medium term, and restoring the Wyvern to full operational order as soon as possible. The Council will be in a position to issue an update on this early next week.
The theatre management ask customers who have bought tickets for performances at the Wyvern to be patient, and they will be contacted with further information as soon as it is available.
The aim is to reopen in time for this year?s pantomime Cinderella on Friday 8 December.
See the local press for the latest information or the Wyvern?s website: www.wyverntheatre.org.uk
Above, saddened that the new theatre season has been disrupted, but safety comes first, says Andy Hill, Wyvern theatre general manager