board of governors' Statement: Wednesday, 27 March 2019
The Redbridge Theatre Company would like to thank the public for the very many messages of support and the recognition by theatregoers of the high standard of technical and artistic work that the Company has built up within the Council-owned building of the Kenneth More Theatre over a period of nearly 45 years.
The commitments to culture made by Cllr Athwal in his statement to the Full Council meeting and published on 21 March are welcomed by the Theatre Company, but some of the points made need clarification.
The Council itself was in actual control of the Theatre until as recently as June 2018. While the Company and community using the Theatre have always been grateful for the financial support offered over nearly 45 years, it needs to be pointed out that the administration of the Company was undertaken by officers of the Council including financial control. The Company were charged by the Council for this financial management in the sum of approximately £29,000 a year. It is only in recent months that the Company has been able to unravel these complexities and form an accurate picture of the true costs of running the building, as the Company has found itself facing the future without a subsidy.
The Company is of course fully aware of the cuts to services that have had to be made by the Local Authority and it was perhaps no surprise when in 2016 the Council advised that they intended to remove in total their annual subsidy to the Company of approximately £157,000.
It was agreed that self sustainability was an aspiration to be worked towards if it could be achieved. To generate more income, one of the Company’s first decisions in 2014 was to apply for funding from the Redbridge Arts Innovation Fund for a digital cinema at the Theatre, to broaden what is on offer locally, for example broadcasting live events such as National Theatre or Royal Opera. The Council decided that a Business Review was to be funded instead.
We stress that the Company is not insolvent and that we have very firm intentions to continue making theatre in the Borough using the considerable resources and expertise built up over many years. In January this year, the Company was on the point of agreeing the terms of a new Lease but this coincided with receiving figures showing that continuing to trade would have led the Company to insolvency after only twelve more months.
Since the Council announced the withdrawal of the subsidy the Company has done all that it can to reduce expenditure. For example, an already skeleton staff of 7 in 2016 has been reduced to 4 at present. An army of 60+ and increasing volunteers continue to provide invaluable support which would otherwise have to be paid for. They continue to save the Theatre thousands of pounds a year.
The plans that the Council have for the Town Centre are impressive and the Company is enthusiastic to be part of that future. We hope that this may still be the case. We hoped that the Council would be able to temporarily restore part of the subsidy while the small number of dedicated staff running the Company continued to tackle the challenge to further reduce the difference between income and expenditure and act on the findings of our Audience Development Plan. It is extremely regrettable that the Company had to cancel all bookings/productions after the end of July including the very popular and profitable annual Pantomime.
It is totally understood that the timing of certain world events and other rightly more important priorities made the promise to communicate with us difficult, but we find it discourteous to have had no direct communication from the Council, especially since the Company had the courtesy to give the Council six days’ notice of their initial intended press release. The Company itself has attempted several times to communicate with the Council to no avail.
Cllr Athwal says he knows of no plans by the Company to try and deal with the financial problems. At the meeting with Cllr Athwal in February, he was made aware that the Company has paid for a Fundraising Consultant to advise on how to increase income and this was about to be actioned after the end of the very profitable Pantomime in February.
The Council will also be aware that the Company successfully applied for a grant for an accessibility audit for major improvements to the facilities at the Theatre and was looking to fund these improvements without relying on money from the Council.
The £775,000 mentioned in Cllr Athwal’s statement is money the Council was obliged to spend to maintain a building that they own. The peppercorn rent offered to the Company to provide a service to the community (in a new Lease) is not recent additional funding but something that has been in place since 1974. The Company itself has incurred additional expense over the last twelve months making improvements to the building, for example replacing fire doors and removing external door recesses to prevent antisocial behaviour.
At the request of the Company, it was suggested that its governance should be changed to remove Council control of the Company. In a subsequent meeting with Cllr Athwal he agreed that this would be a good course to take. This process was completed in June 2018.
Keeping the Theatre open and functional after July as stated by Cllr Athwal will be difficult, and ultimately expensive for the Council, should the Theatre Company be forced to choose to remove itself from the town centre site.
If the Theatre closes in any interim period of uncertain length, it will still cost the council and taxpayers a great deal of money to maintain and protect the building without any benefit to the community.
We remain optimistic that urgent discussions can take place to allow the Company to contribute to exciting plans for the much needed regeneration of Ilford Town Centre as the Council bring forward their imminent plans for change.
The Board of Governors
The Redbridge Theatre Co Ltd
Press Release: Tuesday, 19 March 2019
REDBRIDGE THEATRE COMPANY FORCED TO CANCEL SHOWS AFTER JULY
Despite the ability of Redbridge Theatre Company Limited (“the Company”) to trade successfully for over 40 years, the current costs of running the Redbridge Council (“The Council”) owned building, compounded by the complete loss of subsidy from the Council, have significantly impacted the Company’s reserves and make it unviable for the Company to run the Kenneth More Theatre.
Following the complete loss of the subsidy from the Council 18 months ago, the Company, the charity that currently runs the Kenneth More Theatre, has worked hard to increase income and reduce costs. Despite this and making a profit of over £100,000 on this year’s pantomime, the costs of running the Theatre Building and putting on productions outstrip the income earned.
The Company met with the Council to explain the position in detail and the risks the Company faced. They provided copies of the accounts and requested a partial restoration of the subsidy for the next two years while they continue their work on fundraising development, increase diversity of productions and build up new audiences and numbers of people visiting the Theatre. As all Theatre performances are programmed in advance, a decision from the Council was requested by 13 March 2019.
The Company was told that the Council’s position on reinstating financial support to them would be reviewed, but to date the Company has not been given any information as to whether or not the Council would restore financial support.
Following a Board of Governors’ resolution at a General Meeting on Wednesday, 13 March 2019, the Company’s Board of Trustees made the regrettable decision that performances will cease, and no events will be programmed at the Kenneth More Theatre after the end of the next Season in July 2019.
The Company will be taking a hiatus to plan the next stage for its future.
Jeremy Smith, Chairman of the Board of Governors says “This will be a major blow to the local community and the Company’s supporters as the Theatre has been at the centre of the community for over 40 years providing much enjoyment to its audiences. It has been the starting point for so much talent that has been nurtured within the local community, a significant number of whom have gone on to have professional careers in the West End, both onstage and backstage; in addition, the amateur performing companies provide many young people with positive role models and opportunities for teamwork, within a creative hobby in a fully functioning, professionally resourced theatre.”
Redbridge Theatre Company Ltd.
Redbridge Theatre Company Ltd. is a registered charity no. 264673 and all surplus monies are retained and used for charitable purposes. Those purposes are chiefly for providing education, artistic, cultural, community and social benefit for the residents of the London Borough of Redbridge and broader outreach. It has existed for the benefit of its local community in the London Borough of Redbridge since it opened in 1975. It was created to be the cultural heart of the Borough and was set up as the home of Redbridge Theatre Guild, a collection of amateur theatre companies. To this day, the Company still supports local amateur societies including two youth theatres, with nearly half of the performances annually performed by community dance or drama societies. The Company have produced their annual professional pantomime each year since the Theatre opened and this is attended by over 18,000 every festive season. These figures have increased year on year.
The Company have always encouraged young people in the Borough to participate; involving local schools, colleges and youth theatres to enthuse the next generation of theatre-makers and audience members. They have always strived to provide a place where the Arts can thrive, whilst creating an outlet for diverse community participation through the provision of high quality cultural programming and education; meeting with excellence all the demands on a vital community resource.