Palace Theatre’s survival battle

Plans to reduce the borough council’s subsidy of £50,000 could leave Watford Palace Theatre fighting for survival. Theatre trust chairman Councillor Arthur Reynolds said this week that the Palace Theatre “as we know it now” could disappear if a threat to reduce the annual grant by a third or more is carried out. The Clarendon Road playhouse could be forced to cut back on productions and close for as much as six months of the year. Artistic director Leon Rubin said that the theatre was already seriously underfunded and any grant reduction would be “catastrophic”, leaving it struggling to survive. The grant cut idea comes at a time when the Palace, now established in the forefront of provincial theatres, is attracting full houses and record advance bookings.

[February 7, 1986]

Cold snap chaos

Temperatures dropped to minus 13 degrees centigrade as South West Hertfordshire slithered to a painful halt in the coldest spell for 40 years. One of the busiest places during the big freeze was the casualty unit at Watford General Hospital where 114 people had been treated since the first snowfall last Wednesday. Almost a third of those treated at the hospital – 36 – suffered broken bones. Conditions were equally treacherous on the road. Motorists had trouble starting frosted engines and once in motion many had even more problems trying to stop.

[February 14, 1986]

Hospital demolished

All that was left of Holywell, Watford’s old isolation hospital built before World War I, bit the dust on Monday. After a series of hiccups, the demolition contractors were able to swing their ball and chain into action and down it came. The plan had been to knock the 70 foot boiler house chimney down last week. This was put back from Tuesday to Wednesday and then until Thursday, when the contractors found their equipment had been slightly damaged in delivery. But on Monday all was well, and the task was soon accomplished. A spokesman for the borough council said no information was available about plans for the Holywell site.

[February 14, 1986]

Princess opens hospital block

Princess Michael of Kent had a smile for everyone as she opened Watford’s new £12million hospital block this week. During her two-hour stay at Watford General Hospital she met many health authority representatives, hospital staff and patients. She seemed to enjoy particularly talking to children.

[February 21, 1986]

Don’t risk it

Foolhardy skaters could encourage children to risk life and limb on Rickmansworth’s frozen Aquadrome, a council chief warned this week. Three Rivers launched a crackdown on ice-skaters on the frozen lake after reports that even a woman with a pram and a man in a wheelchair ventured onto the ice over the weekend. Attendants at the lake, who say fully-grown adults have ignored their pleas to keep off the ice, have now been instructed to ring the police if anyone fails to respond. Director of Works and Services Mr Hugh McKay said this week: “I am extremely concerned about the dangers. Generally children have responded to our staff removing them – but adults tended not to respond at all.”

[February 21, 1986]

Prince’s visit

Prince Charles had a chance to see one of his favourite maxims – “small is beautiful” – put into practice, when he opened the WENTA Business Centre yesterday. As the Chairman of Business in the Community, the Prince is closely involved with people setting up small businesses – exactly the kind of entrepreneurs that the Watford Enterprise Agency is trying to help. After an official reception in the WENTA café, the royal visitor went on a half-hour tour of the Business Centre which displayed the kind of ingenuity and determination that the up-and-coming businessmen of Watford have to offer.

[February 28, 1986]

What was happening in the world in February 1986?

• Pixar Animation Studios is founded by Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith (February 3)

• US President Ronald Reagan announces the formation of a commission of enquiry on the Challenger accident (February 3)

• An anti-smoking advert airs on TV for the first time, starring actor Yul Brynner (February 18)

• The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station (February 19)

• The People Power Revolution begins in the Philippines to remove President Ferdinand Marcos from office (February 22)

• Corazon Aquino becomes the first Filipino woman president (February 25)

• Egyptian military police, protesting against bad salaries, enter four luxury hotels near the pyramids, set fire to them and loot them (February 25)

• Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme is shot to death on his way home from the cinema in Stockholm, Sweden (February 28)