NewSPAL blog

news and updates from the charities trustees

20 December 2018: Surrey Libraries open NewSPAL consultation



Having received NewSPAL's 2019 to 2021 Business Plan from the Trustees (downloadable at the foot of this page) SCC have set up a consultation to gauge user reaction to aspects of the Plan.


The consultation runs until 3rd February 2019, which means its results will be available for the Surrey County Council Cabinet Meeting, in Kingston, on Tuesday 26th February. This is where the final decision on NewSPAL's suitability to take over SPAL will be decided - the final decision we have waited over a year to receive.



Before you complete the survey, we invite you to read the comments below.


SCC have represented NewSPAL's proposals for the running of SPAL as well as possible given the limited space (and little time to put the survey together). They have tried hard to paint a full picture. There are always a few things though that don't come across or could be expressed better, hence these remarks:


NewSPAL's proposals include taking on all the material currently in SPAL. As well as the multiple music and drama

sets for performance, that includes the chamber music and other music for individuals, the collection of books and other resources related to drama, music, dance and film.


- if you are a librarian, MD or committee member of a drama or music group using performance sets from SPAL, you will want to fill in the survey with that 'hat' on


- if you are a member of a group that uses SPAL for performance materials, drama or music (even if not responsible for doing the actual research or borrowing), then you too will probably want to complete the survey with your group in mind


- if you are a member of a group that uses SPAL for performance materials, drama or music, AND you are also an individual user, whether for music, drama, books or other resources, then you may want to complete the survey in your individual capacity, rather than with your group in mind


- if you are solely an individual user of SPAL, independent of any group, please do complete the survey in that capacity


- if you are none of the above, you can say so in the survey, and please do still complete it, eg if you're a network, national organisation, local charity, or a festival


We hope this will make more sense once you go through the survey... which doesn't ask the capacity in which you are completing it until a fair way in.


At every stage you can go back to all the previous questions, so if you decide part way through to change your 'hat', you can always go back and amend your answers.


And question 17 gives you scope, in whatever capacity, to write up to 200 words of comments, so if you find you're not able to get your thoughts across with the multiple choice questions, this is your chance to do so.

Please pass the page link below to your drama and music contacts in Surrey, West Sussex, and further afield.  NewSPAL want to demonstrate positive support for our plans from within the County and beyond, and from every type of user. This breadth of interest and support will be essential to the success of Surrey's re-established Performing Arts Library.


And finally ! Please put 2pm Tuesday 26th February in your diary when the final NewSPAL decision will be taken at Surrey County Hall in Kingston. We hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Let's make them put out extra chairs!


27 November 2018: Further Delay from Surrey County Council (SCC)


Despite submitting our Report to Cabinet on time, we were informed as late as November 8th that it would NOT be presented to the November SCC Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday 27th.


The Chairman of NewSPAL therefore expressed our amazement and our disappointment in the letter below, sent to each Councillor member of the SCC Cabinet:



Dear Cabinet members,


At your meeting in June you invited NewSPAL to produce a detailed business plan for our proposed takeover of the Surrey Performing Arts Library for you to consider in "the Autumn". With the assistance of a highly qualified  consultant appointed by NewSPAL we have done so. With a view to the  internal timetable leading to your 27 November meeting, a preliminary draft of the plan was given to your officers in early October. We received "final comments" from your officers on 30 October. We were also asked to provide a short letter to you which could be annexed to  the officers' report to you. We did so on 1 November. On 7 November we provided your officers with the revised plan which addressed the comments we had received. On 8 November we were informed by Liz Mills that your officers now considered our proposal would need to be the subject of a public consultation before it could be presented to you.


The main elements of our proposal have been in the public domain since March. Although we were, accordingly, slightly surprised that no mention of a further public consultation was made at any stage in our discussions with your officers until we received Liz Mills's email on 8 November, we understand the reasons why a public consultation might be appropriate. A fair consultation exercise should help to re-galvanise public interest in how best to provide a long-term sustainable future for this highly-valued service. To assist to make the consultation as well-informed as possible, we intend to make both our 1 November letter and our plan publicly available.  


There is nothing in our 1 November letter which needs to be changed as a result of the proposed public consultation. As a courtesy, therefore, I am attaching a copy of it for your information before it is made public.


Yours sincerely,

Mark Welling ♦ Chair, NewSPAL (registered charity (England and Wales) no. 1176729)



Reply: The Cabinet Member for Community Services is very pleased to receive proposals from NewSPAL in respect of the Surrey Performing Arts Library and acknowledges the significant progress

made in moving towards robust new arrangements. We are committed to making a decision about the

new arrangements at the earliest opportunity and in order to achieve this will undertake a final consultation over the coming weeks. It is planned to take the proposals to Cabinet in February 2019 for

decision following the consultation.


Ms Denise Turner-Stewart

Cabinet Member for Community Services

27 November 2018


♦  View the relevant section of the SCC Cabinet meeting on this link



What happens next?


We are waiting to hear the new timetable SCC will impose on us.


Until we are given SCC Cabinet approval we cannot:


  • sign any buildings lease
  • recruit librarians
  • contract a specialist firm to move the stock
  • purchase Nottingham City's specialist software to manage the sets collections
  • but most of all we cannot...
  • OPEN your NewSPAL for a full, professionally-managed service to Surrey's playreading, drama, musical, and opera groups, choirs, concert bands, and orchestras

06 October 2018

Saturday 6th October 2018 ♦ New Surrey Performing Arts Library

- Progress Meeting -













More than 60 people attended a Saturday morning meeting in Leatherhead to hear progress on setting up a new performing arts library for Surrey and the South.


The main task was producing a report to SCC Cabinet setting out the details they require to reassure themselves our budgets and plans and are sound and well-researched.


Those present could also 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.

















 It may be taking longer than anyone hoped for, but let's all be clear 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:





























04 June 2018: How much longer can this go on?


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 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 the previous plan to separate drama from music), 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.


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 users. Watch out for further information 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 those interested to the survey so they can pledge support – moral or otherwise.
  3. If you have contacts with press or media, please point them in the direction of the trustees for comments, quotes, articles or interviews. Contact: Barbara Eifler,
  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


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

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

trustees Barbara Eifler & Mark Welling (Chair)

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.


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


UPDATE: The Trustees presented the report to SCC Cabinet for consideration at their 2pm, 27th November, meeting in County Hall, Kingston. As you can read above, SPAL was not on the Cabinet agenda.

29 May 2018: Tabled reply from Cllr Denise Turner-Stewart at 29 May 2018 Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting to the public question asked by NewSPAL trustee John Thornely:


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


03 April 2018: 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.


NewSPAL 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.


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


Please pledge your support

 whether time, money, premises, expertise… and register for email updates:

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 the country


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

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© Copyright NewSPAL 2018 All Rights Reserved

NewSPAL: New Surrey Performing Arts Library

Registered Charity (England & Wales) No 1176729

HMRC Gift Aid Registration: EW91669

Registered address: 41 Chesterfield Grove, London SE22 8RP

Trustees:  Mark Welling Chairman 

Paul McKay Hon Secretary   ♦   Peter Steadman Hon Treasurer

Carol Hall Archway Theatre, Horley   ♦   Ges Ray Leith Hill Musical Festival

Barbara Eifler Chief Executive, Making Music

Anna Wright UK & Ireland President, International Association of Music Libraries