And the winners of the Sutton Cultural Awards are…
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
The IMAGINE festival is supported by the London Borough of Sutton and its partners. All events will be eco-themed as we partner with One Planet Sutton to celebrate the arts in one of London’s greenest boroughs. There are exhibitions, a rusty orchestra, culture cycle tours, recycled puppet workshops, an eco-themed poetry slam, drama workshops and much more spread right across the borough and at a venue near you.
The opening extravaganza takes place on Saturday 13 September in Sutton High Street from 12 noon – 3pm. Join it in the High Street for an afternoon of fun filled events and entertainment to celebrate the opening of the IMAGINE festival of the arts. There’s live music, drumming and craft workshops including snails tell tales, make your own scarecrow, a mascot race, giant butterfly stilt walkers and hedgemen living statues plus lots more. Opened by the Major of Sutton and sponsored by Enjoy Sutton (the Successful Sutton BID), this inaugural event promises to offer something for everyone.
To see all the events taking place during the festival please click here for the brochure.
Sutton’s cultural gems on display for Open House weekend
The magic and majesty of Sutton’s heritage will be open to the public this month as part of the capital’s annual Open House Weekend. Twelve historic or innovative buildings will be open for free to the public for the annual event which takes place on Saturday, 20th September and Sunday, 21st September 2014.
Residents can explore historic buildings, see exhibitions and discover more about sustainable architecture.Among the buildings taking part this year are The Circle Library in Carshalton, Whitehall in Cheam, BedZED & Regeneration of Hackbridge and Little Holland House in Carshalton. The Sutton Life Centre will be hosting kids activities and tours on Saturday, 20th September. Two guided walks have also been organised on Sunday, 21st September 2014. One is ‘A Look at Old Carshalton’, led by local historian Andrew Skelton. The other is a 75-minute tour of sustainable buildings in the borough, starting in Sutton.
More information can be found by visiting www.londonopenhouse.org and check if you need to book in advance.
Councillor Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, said:
“We have a rich heritage right here on our doorstep and Open House weekend is a great chance to uncover the borough’s past. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the kind of modern buildings we all see on TV and look at the technology behind sustainable buildings. Not only that but there are special activities going on for all the family so there is something for everyone.”
Buildings in Sutton taking part are:
The Circle Library, Green Wrythe Lane, Carshalton (Sat only)
Sutton Life Centre, Alcorn Close, Sutton (Sat only)
All Saints Church, Carshalton (Sat & Sun)
Honeywood Museum, Honeywood Walk, Carshalton (Sat & Sun)
Whitehall, 1 Malden Road, Cheam (Sat & Sun)
St Nicholas Church, Gibson Road, Sutton (Sun only)
BedZED & Regeneration of Hackbridge, 24 Helios Road, Wallington (Sat only)
Carshalton Water Tower & Historic Gardens, West Street, Carshalton (Sat & Sun)
Lumley Chapel, St Dunstan’s Churchyard, Cheam (Sat & Sun)
Little Holland House, 40 Beeches Avenue, Carshalton (Sat only)
Russettings, 25 Worcester Road, Sutton (Sun only)
Sutton Council subsidises halls and theatres by £5.65 per visit on average; 22% of residents use them.
Options include retaining historic buildings and improving our heritage offer; community groups taking ownership of theatres or council selling them.
Arts development outreach service could be created to support local groups.
Sutton Council has launched a review of it arts and cultural services in order to help make £40m worth of savings to its annual budget over the next five years.
The savings are being forced by unprecedented reductions in funding from central government and growing demand for council services.
The council has come up with proposals to protect the borough’s heritage as much as possible while having to make difficult savings in arts and culture where a minority of residents use the services. From 8 September residents will be able to give their views via an online survey at www.suttonsfuture.org. The council is also running a telephone survey and a workshop for arts groups. The review is part of the Sutton’s Future campaign which encourages the public get involved in shaping the borough’s future.
Sutton has eight cultural venues: Secombe Theatre, Charles Cryer Theatre and workshop, Wallington Hall, Grove Hall, Whitehall, Honeywood Museum, Little Holland House and The Life Centre.
The venues cost £2.2m a year to run, and generate around £420,000 a year in revenue – meaning the council has to spend £1.8m a year on them. The theatres require investment to modernise and improve them, and Wallington Hall needs major renovation work.
Sutton Council is trying to be as fair as possible by making savings in some non essential services that are not used by everyone. A recent survey has shown that they are used by less than a quarter of residents (22%) and every visit costs the council an average of £5.65 to subsidise. The majority of local people (60%) who go to cultural events, do so outside Sutton. Since the Sutton’s Future survey launched on 10 July, residents have ranked cultural services as the least important service out of 14 services.
The council is proposing to protect the borough’s heritage by retaining the three historic houses and museums – Whitehall, Honeywood Museum, Little Holland House – and enhancing their offer through external grants such as the Heritage Lottery Fund. The council will match 10% of funding secured and has already successfully bid for £251,000 for a major restoration of Beddington Park. It currently has a further £6m worth of (HLF) bids in the pipeline.
In order to make necessary savings, the council is proposing to relinquish ownership of its four theatres and halls except Grove Hall which it would lease.
Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee, said:
“Sadly, some very tough decisions must be made and we are trying to be as fair as possible. Each of these buildings and services are competing with private sector offerings and the cultural hub of central London. On average, we subsidise each visit to a cultural venue to the tune of £5.65 yet less than a quarter of residents use the services. That is a big drain on our finances at a time when we need to make £40m in savings to protect universal services and support for our most vulnerable residents.
“We believe museums are essential to protecting the borough’s heritage. We are working closely with the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring in external funding that will improve our offer for future generations. We are looking very closely at all the options, but some closures are inevitable to make savings. If there was another way, we would be taking it.”
Boosting the borough’s heritage offer by securing external funding for Whitehall, Honeywood Museum, Little Holland House along with other sites including Beddington Park and The Grange Garden
- Meeting with arts groups to see if they want to, and are financially capable of, taking over the ownership and management of Secombe Theatre and Charles Cryer Studio Theatre. If that is not possible, the sites will be sold.
- To sell Wallington Hall as it is in extremely poor condition both internally and externally.
- To lease Grove Hall which is currently mainly used as a nursery
- To review The Sutton Life Centre. The educational facility was used by 137,976 visitors in the last financial year. It includes a library, a community centre, meeting space, a climbing wall and a multi-use games area.
- To set up an Arts Development Outreach Serviceto support cultural and community groups. It could deliver an arts programme, deliver grants, help groups get funding and find venues.
There will be a workshop where arts groups can meet with councillors and council staff to register their interest in taking over one of the two theatres, and give their views on the Arts Development Outreach Service.
Residents have until 3 October to take part in the online survey. It is expected that a decision will then be taken on the proposals at November’s Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee meeting.