Music & Drama group leaders & librarians came from Surrey and Sussex

UPDATE: Saturday 6th October 2018

New Surrey Performing Arts Library

- Progress Meeting -


More than 60 people attended Saturday morning's meeting at Christ Church, Leatherhead to hear about progress on setting up a new performing arts library for Surrey and the South.


The main current task is production of a report to SCC Cabinet setting out all the details they require in order to reassure themselves that our budgets and plans and are sound and well-researched.


Those present were able to view a layout for potential premises offered by Woking Borough Council in the centre of the town, close to on-street parking and a multi-storey car park.


Plans include keeping the entire music and drama collection on a single floor, employing a professional librarian and an assistant, and a new online system for users to book sets in advance.


trustees Barbara Eifler & Mark Welling (Chair) adressed the meeting and answered supporters' questions

After the initial presentation by NewSPAL trustee Barbara Eifler, Chief Executive of Making Music, there was plenty of time for questions from the floor.


The presentation slides can be viewed below this message.


There are still many details to be finalised, but the meeting was unanimous that NewSPAL's Trustees should continue their work and seek SCC approval this Autumn.


WHAT CAN YOU DO NEXT ? The Trustees expect to present our report to SCC Cabinet for consideration at their 2pm, 27th November, meeting in County Hall, Kingston.


Please set aside that afternoon to be with us if you can.


It may be taking longer than anyone hoped for, so let's show by our presence that we have not lost any enthusiasm for securing the future of the Surrey Performing Arts Library

- the nation's 3rd largest public music and drama loans collection.


Presentation slides:



























Update 04 June 2018


SCC Cabinet should have considered the future of SPAL at its 29 May meeting but, for a 3rd consecutive month, the report on SPAL from SCC's officers was again delayed. The Leader of the Council hopes the report will come to the 26 June Cabinet meeting, in which case the report would be published, with the Cabinet agenda, on SCC's website about 19 June.


Nearly 50 people, representing a wide range of music and drama groups, attended the 29 May Cabinet meeting - wearing blue T-shirts urging Cabinet to "Give SPAL to the community" - to demonstrate their frustration with the continuing delay in bringing SPAL's future to Cabinet for a decision. More than 300 groups, and a large number of individuals, have pledged support to NewSPAL (the charity established on behalf of users to bid to take over SPAL).


NewSPAL trustee John Thornely asked a public question about the delay. A written reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, was tabled at the meeting. (A copy is printed at the end of this update.) According to Cllr Mrs Turner-Stewart, the delay is because SCC is continuing "to explore options for interim arrangements for SPAL".


In a supplementary question, John Thornely queried why SCC officer time and money was still being spent on interim arrangements instead of working directly with NewSPAL on a long-term sustainable future. (The obvious interim arrangement is to leave SPAL where it is while all concerned work constructively and transparently on a permanent solution which saves the Council money but can be supported by users.) John therefore asked what ‘interim’ or ‘permanent’ outcomes SCC officers were working towards and when plans would finally come to Cabinet for a decision.


The answer was once again not very illuminating, except it appears there is now an intention to keep SPAL together (rather than separating drama from music as previously planned), but it is unclear whether that is as an interim (whilst NewSPAL gets ready to take over) or as a permanent in-house solution. Even the 26 June Cabinet meeting is not yet guaranteed to be the one where the future of SPAL will be debated. If not, Tuesday 17 July would be the next relevant meeting.


Meanwhile, NewSPAL is working on a statement of the criteria by which both its own and any alternative in-house proposal from Surrey Libraries should be judged - in terms of what is likely to secure the best sustainable long-term future for SPAL and its users. Watch out for further information on this soon.


Thank you to all the users and supporters who have given of their time and pledged support in terms of time, expertise and/or money.



  1. We still need more support and we urge you to continue talking to your friends (whether active in music or drama or not) and all your local contacts, including your councillor(s), about this issue, so that when Cabinet finally considers the issue, awareness is high.
  2. Please direct anyone to the survey as a means of pledging support – moral or otherwise.
  3. If you have any contacts with press or media, please point them in the direction of the trustees for comments, quotes, articles or interviews. Contact: Barbara Eifler, barbara@makingmusic.org.uk
  4. Put the dates of the next two Cabinet meetings in your diary and attend the relevant one (we will alert you or check one week before on the SCC website): 26 June and 17 July


Tabled reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart at 29 May Cabinet meeting to a public question asked by John Thornely (NewSPAL trustee):


The Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL) is one of very few remaining specialist libraries in the UK in this field, illustrating the challenges of keeping a specialist library open in difficult times. Our objective has been to find a long-term solution for the SPAL that achieves savings whilst continuing to ensure the collection is accessible to users.


We are developing a proposal whereby we would continue to operate the collection more cost effectively by assimilating SPAL music and drama into the mainstream library service supported by trained library staff. The option for an independent future for SPAL was part of our user consultation as a possible way of safeguarding SPAL's longer-term future and we have been working with the trustees of NewSPAL regarding their proposition for the library.


There is a slight delay in finalising our proposals, whilst we are exploring options for interim arrangements for SPAL, particularly a recently identified opportunity for alternative relocation which needed technical property assessment in accordance with our duty of good governance.


We advised NewSPAL that we had to postpone the report from going to May Cabinet as the additional property information was not yet available and gave an assurance that this delay was solely in relation to interim arrangements for the library and not for any reason relating to longer-term arrangements.


We anticipate the report will be presented to Cabinet shortly, once our assessments are complete.


Ms Denise Turner-Stewart

Cabinet Member for Community Services


Help create a future for the

Surrey Performing Arts Library


The Surrey Performing Arts Library is an award winning library for the performing arts – one of the three largest in England – currently run as part of Surrey County Council (SCC) Libraries.


It is used by hundreds of music and drama groups in Surrey and beyond, to hire multiple copies of plays and scores, and by individuals to borrow specialist books, music and other resources.


In the face of severe Budget challenges, SCC propose to move the collection in April, splitting it over two or more libraries, and leaving it without specialist staff, to save money.


If that goes ahead, we believe this will quickly lead to the deterioration of the material and ultimately the loss of this great resource.


NewSPAL is a newly formed charity overseen by users for users, offering to take over the running of the performing arts library from SCC to safeguard it for the future.


It now needs your help to get going!


NewSPAL needs to prove to SCC that it has the support of users and that it can raise

pledges of £84,000 and of volunteer time for the transition from SCC to NewSPAL.



  • To get the mandate from SCC at their Cabinet meeting on 27 March, we need pledges of support, money and volunteer time for the transition by 15 March 2018.
  • If we don’t get the mandate at that meeting, we must work towards raising the necessary funding, finding premises and getting support and volunteer backing as soon as possible - desirably by July 2018, with a view to taking on the library as soon as possible after that.

If you value the thriving performing arts in Surrey and beyond...

Please pledge your support

(time, money, premises, expertise…)

and register for updates or contact us

please click on the grey area around the ◄ left & right ► arrows, rather than the white arrow itself

NewSPAL: The Performing Arts Library in Surrey


The award-winning Surrey Performing Arts Library is one of the three largest music score and drama text loan resources in England


Help create a secure future for the Library in the charitable sector

Get in Touch


Email: support@newspal.org.uk


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