Come and support your local theatre

The theatre has had a very encouraging flourish towards the end of this financial year. We’ve had plenty of people through the door, and what a choice there was, especially for our younger audiences. There’s been Horrible Histories, Zog and Bird Nest Billy for the very young and a range of excellent productions in the studio, as well as the two set-texts - The Sign of Four and Bouncers. It gets better over Easter, with visits from There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Dear Zoo, Milk Shake Live and from the makers of Peppa Pig - Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom. Plenty there to keep the whole family entertained.

As I mentioned above, we are coming to the end of the financial year, which is always a hectic time gathering the results from last year and mapping out the one ahead. The artistic programme has performed well against its targets and I congratulate everyone here for that - Programming, Marketing, Production, Front of House and Box Office. However, other costs have hurt us quite significantly. To a large extent we are victims of our own success. A new box office system that can better serve our customers, increasing business rates for our workshop spaces and fast-rising set building costs have hit the theatre hard. All against a small amount of funding that has decreased or remained at a standstill over the past 12 years.

When I go around the district and the UK talking about Harrogate Theatre, the general perception is that we are a wealthy commercially run operation, rather than the charitable trust we are. People are genuinely surprised that we are a charity, relying heavily on additional income like sponsorship, trusts and donations, as well as our ticket sales of course. So in recent months, our Head of Communications, Rachel Auty, has been doing a sterling job of getting that message back out into the public domain.

Putting on arts and cultural events is a risky business. You can never accurately predict attendance patterns or the continuation of funding, and this makes us vulnerable. As a receiving venue – with the exception of pantomime – around 80% of every ticket purchased goes directly to the touring companies. This is where additional giving matters. Therefore, in 2019/20 we will be more vocal in our requests for support with contributions and donations, as it’s one of the ways arts organisations can effectively survive, especially if we are to programme a range of challenging, entertaining, diverse, educational and inclusive work for the whole of the community. We know we are one of the best value theatres in Yorkshire, but this year we will have to review our pricing strategies a little, in order to generate greater resilience.

There are a number of ways you can support us if you wish. We are about to launch our new White Rose Membership scheme. There are various price levels with accompanying benefits. For more details visit. https://www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk/support-us

Let’s end on more upbeat notes. Harrogate Theatre is up for a regional tourism and a national pantomime award next month. Northern Broadsides’ production of Much Ado About Nothing, which will be with us in May is receiving terrific reviews. Why not support us by coming to see and enjoy a great company perform one of Shakespeare’s classic comedies? Likewise in May, the visit of Northern Ballet should prove to be quite special. Also, check out what’s on at the Royal Hall and Harrogate Convention Centre, there are some big acts and names like Alfie Boe on their way.