Sutton Council to consider future of Charles Cryer & Secombe Theatres

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Sutton Council has been seeking expressions of interest for the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre and Secombe Theatre following the closure of the Sutton Theatres Trust.

Five expressions of interest were received for the Charles Cryer Theatre, and one expression of interest was received for both theatres. The bid for both theatres was not considered viable and sustainable in the long term.

The next phase of the process will now begin. From those bids a for the Charles Cryer, a number have been selected and are being invited to work up proposals in greater detail ready for a decision later this year. The future of the Secombe Theatre is to be reviewed by considering a range of alternative uses. A decision will be taken by the Strategy & Resources Committee later in the year.

A Sutton Council spokesman said:

“We were pleased with the level of interest shown in the Charles Cryer Theatre and want to further explore the option of it being used as a cultural and community facility. This will depend on costs and long-term viability as it must be capable of operating without financial support from the Council. Given our recent experience with the Sutton Theatres Trust we want to go through this exercise carefully. The Secombe Theatre did not generate a sustainable, viable bid from potential operators and we will now be considering other uses for the site.”The council hopes to bring forward decisions on the future of the theatres in the next few months.”

Statement on Secombe and Charles Cryer Theatres

Christmas Lights and Snow in Carshalton Village in times past

Christmas Lights and Snow in Carshalton Village in times past

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Following the recent marketing of the Secombe Centre and Charles Cryer Theatres Sutton Council has received a range of expressions of interest as buildings suitable for community use with commercial leases attached. The marketing of the theatres follows Sutton Theatre Trust, appointed in 2015 to run both venues as theatres, going into administration earlier this year. The council will be reviewing the proposals received in the New Year.

A spokesperson said:

“To help balance ever-tightening budgets in 2014/15 we took the difficult decision not to continue directly managing the Secombe Centre and Charles Cryer Theatres. Sutton Theatre Trust took took on the day to day management and promotion of the theatres and unfortunately the Trust also proved not to be viable.  We are now carefully reviewing expressions of interest we have received to be certain they are viable as we are no longer able to subsidise theatre provision or the buildings in question. The council remains committed to encouraging and enabling a diverse range of arts and cultural activity in the borough which will soon be set out in our cultural strategy.”

Sutton Council invites organisations to submit offers to rent borough theatres

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The Secombe Theatre

Sutton Council is inviting local organisations that have expressed an interest in renting the Secombe and Charles Cryer theatres to submit formal offers.

The request follows the recent  financial collapse of Sutton Theatres Trust, the private company that took over the running of both theatres last year.

A Sutton Council spokesperson said:

“Sutton Theatres Trust collapsed in August and the Secombe and Charles Cryer theatres have now been returned to Sutton Council. The council has no intention of running these theatres itself, nor, given the financial constraints under which the council is working, can it afford to subsidise their operation.

“Following the demise of Sutton Theatres Trust the council has been contacted by a few organisations who have expressed an interest in using the buildings. The council consequently wishes to establish the viability of these proposals by formally inviting offers from those interested in the buildings.

“All those who have already contacted Sutton Council will be invited to submit rental offers, setting out details of what they wish to use the buildings for and the level of rent they are able to pay. Additionally, the council will advertise the availability these buildings in the local press.

“We plan to complete this process by the end of November and will be looking place the advertisement within the next two weeks. We will be sending out brief property particulars to all those who respond to the advertisement and to those who have already contacted the council.”

Sutton Council and Sutton Theatres Trust

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Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee at Sutton Council, said:

“Beri Juriac’s article in The Stage newspaper makes interesting reading. He helpfully suggests councils should sponsor the arts, whilst recognising councils have no money to do so due to unprecedented Government cuts to funding.

“We made no secret of the fact we could no longer afford to run and heavily subsidise the Secombe and Charles Cryer Theatres. For each show we put on, more than four seats in five were empty. It was simply unsustainable.

“With cross-party agreement we held a six-month process to find the talented, industry-leading operators the theatres in Sutton deserved. This thorough process, including compelling presentations and interviews, recommended Beri Juriac and Sutton Theatres Trust as the people who could save Sutton’s theatres.

“It is disappointing then to read Mr Juriac’s comments, given how well he promoted his ability to lead the theatres into profitability. He should perhaps consider his own role, rather than blame the council for the failings of Sutton Theatres Trust. The Trust benefitted from 15 months of rent-free use of the theatres, received free repair work to the theatres before the transfer, and received the equipment and fittings the Trust needed to succeed. Usually when you take a building on a lease, you take on responsibilities. To give the Trust the best chance of success we gave them the best-possible start.

“At no point did the Trust ever indicate any financial problems when meeting with the council. We were therefore as surprised as many to learn of their failure. Many residents I have spoken to were concerned, however, by the Trust’s approach to theatre production and promotion. Many residents suggested shows could be better advertised in the borough, noting there were no posters or leaflets in our local shops, on our noticeboards or interestingly, in our local newspapers.

“The reasons why Sutton Theatres Trust failed are many, just as is the case with similar stories across the country. Beri took on the deal Sutton Council offered with his eyes wide open. He failed to make it work, and that failure will further damage the cause of local theatre in Sutton. To try and lay the blame at the door of those who tried to help you the most, without recognising your own role, is disingenuous at least.”

Sutton Council hands over theatres to Sutton Theatres Trust – Handover completes double win of saving the theatres and funds

Sutton Theatres Trust has taken over the running of two theatres from Sutton Council in a move that will keep the theatres open and save the taxpayer £482,000 a year. The council was previously spending £11.21 subsidising every visit to the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre in Carshalton and £6.81 at the Secombe Theatre. In total it cost £157,000 to run Charles Cryer Studio and £325,000 to run Secombe Theatre each year (2014/15 budget).

Faced with having to make £40m of savings from its annual budget due to unprecedented government cuts to funding, the council undertook a consultation as part of Sutton’s Future www.suttonsfuture.org – a campaign to encourage the community to get involved in helping the council to make savings.

It involved a series of meetings and workshops with potential bidders and 1,262 responses to an online and telephone survey. As a result, rather than sell the venues, the council entered into an agreement with Sutton Theatres Trust for it to take over the running and all costs for the two theatres, and put on an innovative programme of entertainment.

Sutton Theatres Trust, a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, is leasing 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. They will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of both theatres. The council will save around £280,000 a year it currently spends on running costs for the two buildings.

Over the past six months the council has been working with the Trust on aspects including everything from lease and legal matters to marketing and community partnerships.

Carshalton Central ward Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, said:

“Today we are seeing the end of a thorough and worthwhile process which has resulted in keeping two community assets open while saving the council £280,000 a year.

“We are in tough economic times with government cuts meaning we cannot afford services we used to provide. These theatres are a great example of how Sutton Council is acting on genuine consultation with our residents and community groups to try to find a solution together.

“Now we can looking forward to an exciting programme of activity to be unveiled by Sutton Theatres Trust this summer and their contribution to cultural life in Sutton.”

Micha Colombo and Beri Juraic of Sutton Theatres Trust, said:

“We’re thrilled to be taking over management of the theatres. There has been a lot of hard work since January to reach this point and we’re grateful to the council for their collaboration and the support they have given us along the way.

“We’ll be announcing our upcoming programme for both The Secombe and The Cryer shortly and we’d encourage people to visit our website, www.suttontheatres.co.uk, to find out more.”

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 Theatres Trust, said: 

“We are delighted that the two theatres are safe for the foreseeable future.”

Sutton’s annual summer festival returns for another year

Take Part

Sutton’s summer-long community  festival is back for another year.

Up until late September, the warmer months will be jam-packed with entertainment, much of which is ideal for the whole family. There are fairs and community events, activities at our libraries and the Ecology Centre, new stand-up comedy at the Charles Cryer Theatre, and much more.The Take Part, Take Pride festival, co-ordinated by Sutton Council, aims to bring local residents together through a diverse range of activities across the borough.

This very weekend, locals can enjoy the first ever Carshalton-on-Sea event, including seaside-inspired activities across four venues – Honeywood Museum, All Saint’s Church, Charles Cryer Theatre and Carshalton Village Market and Stage.From Friday afternoon to late Sunday, there will be a programme of performances ranging from jazz musicians to magicians, market stalls, street food, workshops and more.This is just one of hundreds of activities happening in the borough this summer.You can even host your own event and the council will help you to publicise it.

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council said:“This summer-long festival always proves to be very popular with our residents, which explains why it gets better  every year.“The whole idea behind Take Part Take Pride is to bring people in Sutton together and provide plenty of things for the whole family to get involved in and enjoy.“There are some fantastic and diverse events going on over the coming months. I urge everyone to come along, have fun, and really take part and take pride in our borough.”

To view the whole programme of events or for more information on hosting your own event including applying for street closures, go to sutton.gov.uk/takeparttakepride

Tweet us your pictures or share them on Facebook using #TPTK – @SuttonCouncilfacebook.com/LoveSutton

For more information, please get in touch.

To view the story online, visit our news room: http://www.newsroomsutton.co.uk/?p=1698

Please help us to spread the word on social media! 

Our 1000th web site posting! Charles Cryer Theatre in “The Stage”

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2015/01/sutton-theatres-saved-private-company/

A recent article in “The Stage”:

The future of two theatres in south 
London have been secured after their local council agreed to outsource their management to a private company.

The Secombe and Charles Cryer Studio theatres are owned by Sutton Council, which currently also manages the buildings. However, the running of the venues will be handed over to Sutton Theatres Trust, a private company limited by guarantee, in April. It is not a charitable trust. Both theatres came under threat in 2014 when the council announced that, in order to make £40 million of cuts across its services, it planned to sell both venues.

Transferring their operation to the Sutton Theatres Trust will ensure that the venues remain open. The decision comes after a public consultation last autumn in which residents could submit their views on the theatres’ futures.

Councillor Jill Whitehead, chair of the council’s environment and neighbourhoods committee, said the move was “a great example of the council and the community working in tandem to shape the future of our borough”.

Sutton Theatres Trust was founded by producer Beri Juraic and actor and director Micha Colombo, who said in a joint statement: “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 council previously subsidised the Secombe with £427,500 per year and the Charles Cryer Studio with £252,000. But a report produced last year claimed that only 22% of Sutton’s adult residents visited the council’s eight cultural venues, including the two theatres. Both theatres were placed on the 
Theatres Trust’s Theatre Buildings 
at Risk Register in 2014. Rebecca Morland, from the national advisory body, said she was “delighted” the theatres were now safe. “We look forward to taking them off the list when we publish our 2015 register in September.”

 

Future secured for Sutton’s theatres with ground-breaking 10-year deal

Cllr. Jill Whitehead at the signing ceremony

Cllr. Jill Whitehead at the signing ceremony with representatives of the Sutton Theatres Trust

Theatres Trust praises Sutton Council for finding a community solution and will take theatres off its At Risk RegisterThe 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 High Street and the Secombe Theatre near the Civic Offices in central 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.”

Sutton’s Future is Sutton Council’s campaign to involve people in helping to shape the future of services in Sutton in line with unprecedented government cuts. For more information visit www.suttonsfuture.org

Sutton Theatre Trust was founded by producer Beri Juraic and theatre maker Micha Colombo for the purpose of preserving Sutton’s theatres. Beri Juraic is a creative producer with extensive experience in professional theatre in the UK and beyond, and Micha Colombo is a professionally trained actor and director with experience in theatre, voiceover and short film. Both are local residents.

  • Residents are invited to put forward ideas, comments and suggestions for the trust. Please emailinfo@suttontheatres.com

The Lodge, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton Village

Your local councillors in the heart of Carshalton's Conservation Area

Your local councillors in the heart of Carshalton’s Conservation Area

This is to advise The Lodge consultation is still open until end of February 2015. We’d like to encourage those who haven’t yet done so to complete EcoLocal’s online consultation questionnaire to have a say about the future of The Lodge.

In September 2011 the Council’s Carshalton Local Committee agreed that it would like to see The Lodge (off Honeywood Walk) and The Grove (House) buildings used respectively by Eco-Local and a voluntary sector partnership. Since then both groups have been working up their proposals for taking over these buildings.

Eco-Local has undertaken a feasibility study for The Lodge which includes offices, teaching classroom, communal meeting facilities, residential, storage and workshops. Eco-Local are developing their plans further, including a survey of the building, intending to agree terms and conditions and submit a planning application during the first half of 2015.

Eco Local has just finished consulting local groups on their plans. We understand that over 350 responses were received and 97% were enthusiastic about EcoLocal’s plans for the Lodge. Ecolocal is a well-respected local environmental charity and commands much local support.

Eco Local also gave a presentation on their plans to the January 2015 meeting of the Council’s Carshalton Local Committee, and residents also expressed their continued interest there.

It was therefore surprising to Hamish, Alan and Jill as local councillors that the opposition Conservative councillors attacked the idea of The Lodge being taken over by EcoLocal when asking questions at the meeting of the Full Council on Monday, 19th January 2014. One Conservative councillor suggested that The Lodge should be sold at market rate to realise a profit for the council. This suggestion was roundly rejected at the Carshalton Local Committee held in September 2011 where the clear majority of residents wanted The Lodge to be leased to EcoLocal. The same Conservative councillor also suggested The Lodge should be sold to ease the housing shortage with affordable housing for rent on the site. He clearly did not know that The Lodge was within The Grove Park Management Plan boundaries, that it was in the high profile Carshalton Village Conservation Area and that it was an historic building. This sort of proposal is just not suitable for a green parkland area next to Carshalton Ponds, for a conservation area (where planning is tightly controlled), and would destroy the building’s historic past.

Hamish, Alan and Jill will continue to support EcoLocal’s takeover of The Lodge from the Council on a lease from the Council. This is the same business model being used for the successful bidder for the Charles Cryer Theatre. The Sutton Theatres Trust is taking over the Charles Cryer and Secombe Theatres on a lease from the council, and like EcoLocal will pay rent to the council. The opposition Conservatives have pledged support for the theatres takeover, but it seems not for EcoLocal.

Council opens the books for potential theatre bidders

Charles Cryer Theatre

Charles Cryer Theatre

The books have been opened for potential bidders interested in taking over Sutton’s theatres.

Details of running costs, outline business plans and options for the way forward were all discussed at a meeting organised by Sutton Council at SCOLA in Sutton on Monday night (15 September 2014). It was attended by 35 people representing local drama and arts groups.

The meeting was also told that bookings for the autumn and Christmas season would still go ahead as the theatres would remain open for a time after a decision is made in November.

Sutton Council is proposing the option of either closing or handing over ownership of its theatres because it must save £40m from its annual budget.

To help the detailed discussions, a breakdown of running costs for the venues was provided, along with an indication of what the council would like to see in an outline business case from interested parties.

Senior council officers, Rebecca Morland from the Theatres Trust and Toni Walsh from Sutton Centre for the Voluntary Sector (SCVS) were on hand to answer questions and explain how community led groups could take over the theatres.

The Theatres Trust showcased three examples of theatres that have been taken over by community trusts to illustrate how local groups could go forward. The three were Weymouth Pavilion, the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft and the Shanklin Theatre on the Isle of Wight.

A number of those attending expressed an interest in exploring the option of community ownership.

Outline ideas were also set out for a proposed arts development service which would enable local groups to use alternative venues and improve the borough’s cultural offering by leveraging the power of Sutton’s already strong arts community.

The proposed budget savings for arts and theatres are a response to the budget reductions for local authorities announced by the government last December. Since then officers have been looking at all areas of council spending to identify possible savings.

Final decisions about the theatres will be taken in November and until then residents can add their views to the online consultation which is now open at www.suttonsfuture.org

Councillor Jill Whitehead, chair of the Environment & Neighbourhoods Committee, said:

“I was delighted at the number of interested groups who took time to come and speak to us and it would be excellent if a community group can come forward with a viable proposition to take ownership of the theatres. Everyone understands the financial pressures the borough is under. Residents are being realistic and have engaged with us in possible solutions, which is enormously helpful.”