Improvements planned as Wellingborough theatre reflects on past year

More than 8,500 tickets were sold for the Christmas show
More than 8,500 tickets were sold for the Christmas show

A report looking at the past 12 months and ahead to 2018 at Wellingborough’s Castle theatre has been produced.

Wellingborough Council took over the operation of the theatre in June 2016 and 2017 was its first full year of trading.

While there have been some challenges along the way, the report says the in-house team has ensured that the theatre provided a full and well-received programme.

The procurement process to find a new operator has started, with a deadline of midday on February 27 for any tenders.

A preferred bidder will be agreed by April 6 and the council will then vote on whether to award the contract at a meeting in July.

The report says an overspend of £103,000 is forecast for 2017/18, but goes on to state: “The overspend is largely due to the start-up costs for a new business.

“The council inherited no information, data, website or internal IT systems from the previous contractors.

“Neither did it inherit any goodwill, so a number of suppliers were so wary that they would not be paid, that they would not provide their goods or services without a financial bond.

“Additional costs were incurred because the council had no in-house expertise in relation to theatre management.

“It was therefore necessary to contract with a theatre expert who could advise the council on both the operation of a theatre and the tender documentation for the procurement process.

“One of the final reasons for additional costs was the need to bring audiences back and make them aware that the theatre was open for business.

“The marketing team at The Castle have put a great deal of effort into advertising, publication of leaflets, flyers and brochures, and staffing stalls in the shopping centre.

“The Castle has absorbed a large amount of officer time, which has now reduced, but some input will continue to be needed until the new operator takes control.

“This is, however, a key asset in which the council has invested significantly over the years and to which members have made a commitment.”

Looking back at 2017, more than 8,500 tickets were sold for the theatre’s Christmas show, The Wizard of Oz.

The most profitable split shows were Jim Davidson, The Dreamboys and the live performance of Swan Lake.

Spamalot by Theatreworkz and Wind in the Willows by Wellingborough School were the most profitable hire shows.

By the end of the 2017/18 financial year, the theatre will have received 99 different shows with 198 show performances.

It will also have had an average of 43 per cent attendance on all ticketed performances, made a surplus on shows of £60,000 and a turnover of more than £500,000 through the box office.

A series of improvements for the building are planned, and a board is going up in the foyer to keep people up-to-date on this.

It includes work which is due to start early in the new year on replacing broken taps, tiles and hand dryers in toilets around the building.

A site visit has been carried out by theatre technical experts to progress works on the safety repairs to the orchestra pit and tilting floor.

Quotes are also being sought to replace some sound and lighting equipment to help ensure shows run smoothly.

Wellingborough Council’s partnerships and performance committee will discuss the report at a meeting at Swanspool House in Wellingborough on Monday (January 22).