The Chairman welcomed Geoffrey Rowe from the Everyman Theatre. Geoffrey talked through a PowerPoint presentation (Appendix 2) and key points included:
· The theatre was open for 48 weeks of the year and by the end of the year would have held 650 performances and sold 200,000 tickets.
· Performance arts included opera, ballet, pantomime, plays, dance, burlesque and magic.
· Cheltenham Borough Council owned the building on which the theatre held a full repairing lease. The theatre had spent £158,000 on repairing and maintaining the building in 2016 and had plans to build a canopy from the Regent Arcade car park. They had secured planning permission, the funds required and chosen a provider, but were awaiting permission from the landlord (CBC). In the coming years the front of house and catering areas would be refurbished also.
· Cheltenham was famous for its festivals but the theatre was more likely to be open and therefore had a big part to play in terms of Cheltenham’s tourism and cultural offer.
· The theatre had averaged a £50k annual surplus for the last 6 to 8 years, which equated to approximately 1% of turnover. Reserves were in place for when refurbishment of the foyer and catering areas took place.
· The withdrawal of funding (£50k) from Gloucestershire County Council and the reduction in funding received from CBC had impacted some of what the theatre could in terms of outreach work at schools. The impact had, however, been mitigated by redundancies, savings and fundraising.
· The future outlook for the theatre was stable. Finances and staff were sound, the building was a in good state of repair and the theatre were producing more of their own work.
· In recent years the theatre were also having a greater involvement in the various festivals and he hoped that this would continue to grow.
Geoffrey gave the following responses to member questions;
· It was largely only people within Gloucestershire that visited the theatre and sales were stable (at approximately 185,000 a year). Ticket sales were dependant on the level of interest in shows, the Railway Children had not proved as popular as was hoped, tickets sales were also weather dependant and it was undeniably difficult to persuade people to use the balconies.
· Artsmark schools chose to promote the arts to their pupils and there were 16 Artsmark schools in Gloucestershire. The schools approached the theatre from time to time about backstage tours, etc.
· The council was involving the theatre in the development of the Tourism Strategy. He did feel that the council could promote the theatre more widely on its website and that attractions such as the Town Hall needed to open its doors more regularly to the public.
· The ‘Friends of the Everyman Theatre’ group was still active and had 180 members. The group worked to fundraise and promote events and there had been lots of work with various Trusts and Foundations last year which had helped raise £70-80,000. The theatre undertook a telephone campaign, which despite initial apprehensions about how this would be received, raised £30k of one-off donations and £11k of ongoing donations.
· Seat sponsorship had not been repeated since 2011 when it was used to help raise funds for the 2011 refurbishment. The Council had also given a loan to the theatre.
· The sale of tickets for other providers did not offer any economies of scale to the theatre but rather than provider. The theatre sold tickets for Gifford Circus every year and this year had also sold tickets on behalf of the Airshow and the illuminations at Sudeley Castle. Perhaps, understandably, the Town Hall and Playhouse, wanted to sell their own tickets, but this was a service that the theatre would be willing to provide. They had even contacted the Football Club in the past.
· He could not comment on whether a condition of the planning permission given to the Parabola Arts Centre was that it would be available to the public. He was aware that it was not open unless it had been hired for use and that it was available to hire for a fee, as with the Town Hall.
Geoffrey confirmed that he would be leaving the Everyman Theatre at the end of March and that his replacement had been appointed and an announcement would be made next week. He assured members that his replacement was very experienced and that the seasons were already planned to the end of the year.
The committee thanked Geoffrey for his 11 years of dedicated service at the Everyman and to the town.
The meeting adjourned at 7.15pm.