Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Theatre in deficit due to management ‘difficulties’

Theatre in deficit due to management ‘difficulties’

THE Kenton Theatre in Henley has recorded a loss for the first time in at least five years.

According to the latest figures published by the Charities Commission, the historic venue in New Street lost £6,129 over the year up to August 31, 2017 as a result of rising costs, including more than double the expenditure on staff, and a drop in income.

At the start of that period its long-serving managing director Wendy Bowsher stepped down and was replaced by general manager Zsuszi Lindsay, who announced her departure after just four months in post.

The role was then taken over on a shared basis by Tom Ryan and Paula Price-Davis, the former of whom stepped down last month to focus on his role as programming director for the Henley Literary Festival.

Ed Simons, who had been chairman for six years, also stepped down for “personal reasons” in August 2016. This came just weeks after a row over the procedure for electing trustees broke out at the charity’s annual meeting, which sparked a number of walkouts.

The loss comes despite setting a new sales record for the 2016 Christmas pantomime Sleeping Beauty, which sold more than 4,400 tickets compared with 4,200 for the previous year’s show Jack and the Beanstalk.

It also contrasts with the Kenton’s accounts for 2015-16, when it made a profit of £21,377, and with earlier profits of £41,620 in 2014-15, £33,680 in 2013-14 and £5,200 in 2012-13.

Its directors and trustees are now preparing to submit this year’s figures and these will be published in 12 months’ time.

According to the latest report, the charity made only £13,039 in subscriptions, grants and private donations in 2016-17 compared with £18,327 the year beforehand.

This includes a drop in donations from £15,327 to £10,329 and a reduction in income from the theatre’s “friends” scheme from £3,000 to £2,800. There was also a slight drop in income from drinks and snacks sales but this was offset by reduced costs in these areas. However, revenue from the theatre operation dropped sharply from £176,989 to £128,976, which included a reduced income from the productions it hosted from £73,243 to £51,507. Revenue from private hire was also down from £82,007 to £63,405.

Total income to the charity was £197,843, which is £50,612 less than the year ending August 2016, while its total funds decreased from £577,000 to £570,000.

This was offset by an increase in the “restoration levy” it charged on most tickets, which brought in £15,289 as opposed to £5,226 although this can only go towards improving the Grade II listed Georgian building.

The theatre also received £8,300 from its separate limited company which ran its Christmas pantomime in 2016. This was £5,000 more than in 2015.

Meanwhile, production costs dropped from £40,533 to £27,614 but staff costs shot up from £23,250 to £53,186 as the average number of employees throughout the year doubled from three to six.

The money paid a general manager, programming manager, caretaker, box office manager, bookings administrator and two part-time temporary workers. Since those figures were submitted, the theatre has announced its best ever season for ticket sales.

Its total for August last year to January was 16,087, up 11 per cent on the same period in 2016-17 and 20 per cent above the five-year average of 13,381. It also set a new monthly record of 4,261 last November, beating the record of 4,131 set 12 months before that.

Mrs Price-Davies said the financial performance was improving.

She said: “The current financial year is looking much better as the 2016-17 accounts represent the difficulties we experienced within our management at that time. There was a brief period where we had no management at all and there had also been disagreement among the trustees just prior to that.

“However, ticket sales and revenue are much better now and we’re delivering a more varied programme that satisfies a much wider remit.”

Last month, Rick White resigned as chairman of trustees after less than two years following “internal disagreement over management issues”. He declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure.

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