Sunday, 24 October 2021

Theatre fund to help groups with hire costs

Theatre fund to help groups with hire costs

THE Kenton Theatre in Henley is to launch a “community fund” to help schools, drama groups and workshops to hire the venue.

Twenty-five pence from each ticket sold for shows at the New Street theatre would go towards the fund, which would also accept donations.

Organisations wanting to use the theatre could apply for “a grant” from the fund towards the cost of hire.

Piers Burnell, a theatre trustee, came up with the idea in order to make the theatre more inclusive and accessible.

He said: “The idea is to help and encourage local community groups and drama groups and people from further afield to use the theatre.

“It will be us helping schools, diverse communities or theatre groups which may not have the funds to hire the Kenton. It’s a big building and can cost a lot to hire, which can be prohibitive.

“It’s us trying to be more inclusive, especially for people who may never have performed at the Kenton.

“Twenty-five pence is not too much but it’s enough and the money will stack up over time. Once the fund is up and running and people learn what it’s for, they might go, ‘Oh actually, that’s something that’s close to my heart and I’d like to donate £25 or £50. Even if we don’t make that much from donations, I think 25p per ticket will help fund some good productions.”

Mr Burnell, who has a background in theatre, producing and directing fringe productions in London and Henley, will donate £1,000 to “kick-start” the fund.

He said: “I’ve always been involved with theatre and I thought that it’s such a shame we don’t have many schools performing at the Kenton. Before I became a trustee I hired out the Kenton myself and I thought, ‘Is there a way we can get a grant? Is there a way we can somehow raise money through ticket sales and fund little productions to help people?’

“The other trustees thought it was a nice idea as we all want to make the Kenton a more open and inclusive place.”

Mr Burnell, who also teaches drama part-time at Stageworks, hopes the fund will be up and running by the end of the year.

The theatre has been criticised previously for raising the cost of hire for the Henley Children’s Theatre group by almost 50 per cent.

The group, which is run by Muffin Hurst, has had an annual booking at the Kenton at Christmas since 1969, when Ms Hurst’s grandmother ran it.

The venue proposed charging her more than £9,100 for a five-day run of her production when she had been paying £3,675 for her usual week-long booking. Ms Hurst, from Hambleden, protested publicly until the two sides agreed her show could run from New Year’s Eve to January 3 and that she would pay £5,500.

Since then the theatre has appointed some new trustees and has a new chairman, Julie Huntington.

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