The show will go on for both of Sutton’s theatres which are set to be taken over a new theatre company to herald an exciting new era for the two venues. Members of Sutton Council’s Environment and Neighbourhoods committee agreed on Thursday night for the Sutton Theatres Trust to take over the running of the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre in Carshalton and the Secombe Theatre in Sutton.
Sutton Council began a review of its cultural services in August, through its Sutton’s Future campaign which involves the pubic in helping to reshape council services in order to make £40m of savings to its annual budget by 2019 due to unprecedented government cuts.
The council has been subsidising every visit to the two theatres by £9 on average. The council promised to consult users and try to find arts groups who could take over the ownership and management of the two theatres with no cost to the council. If not they would be sold.
Through a series of meetings and workshops with potential bidders and 1,262 responses to an online and telephone survey, we have found the right candidate to take the theatres over and keep them open. Sutton Theatres Trust, a company limited by guarantee, will lease both theatres for a 10-year period after being chosen from two bids on the basis of artistic and community value, financial stability and sustainability, governance and track record. The decision has been given cross-party support.
Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, said: “We are delighted to have secured a future for both our theatres. This is a great example of the council and the community working in tandem to shape the future of our borough in an extremely difficult time of continued cuts. The quality of the Sutton Theatres Trust submission was excellent and clearly shows the passion that our community has for our theatres. They have greater expertise in theatre management which means these cultural centres will no longer be a drain on the council tax payer. The timescale was tight and a lot of hard work has gone into the bidding process so I would like to thank everyone that has taken part in the consultation.”
The winning bid scored highly for innovative programming, community engagement, audience development and financial planning which includes leasing the theatres from the council.
Subject to successful legal, financial and asset management negotiations, the handover process is scheduled for 1 April 2015. It is likely the company will operate in a shadow capacity alongside the existing arrangements over the summer to ensure a successful handover.
Beri Juraic and Micha Colombo, Sutton Theatres Trust, said: “These theatres matter – there is already fantastic community engagement, and we’re hoping to build on that by introducing professional theatre shows and by programming more activities in both venues. Our vision, in a nutshell, is to provide West-End quality theatre on your doorstep at a fraction of the cost. “It won’t be easy. What comes next is hard work, rolling sleeves up and getting to know the venues and our audiences. We can’t do it alone – the more input we have from audiences, user groups and local people – the better. “We want to reiterate that community theatre will remain at the heart of both spaces – we will simply be adding professional theatre to the mix and making more of the spaces available.”
“It’s a tough era for the arts, and we’re thrilled that the council made what we believe to be the right decision to keep the theatres alive. We hope that the council will continue to support and collaborate with such crucial pillars of the local community for everyone’s benefit.”
The Theatres Trust, the national advisory body for theatres, gave invaluable help both to Sutton Council and prospective bidders during the consultation period. Rebecca Morland, an Adviser at the Trust’s Theatres, said: “Sutton Council’s approach is a great example of how local authorities can work with their communities to save valuable amenities like theatres. “We are delighted about this decision as it gives both the Charles Cryer and Secombe theatres a new life and the opportunity to continue serving their communities. We placed these theatres on the annual Theatres Trust’s Theatres Building at Risk Register in 2014 when their future was put in doubt. We look forward to taking them off the list when we publish our 2015 Register in September this year.”
Thursday 22nd January 2015