Work ongoing to boost the performance of The Castle theatre in Wellingborough

The Castle theatre in Wellingborough
The Castle theatre in Wellingborough

Bosses at a town theatre are looking to continue their work to offer more to visitors both on and off the stage.

The Castle theatre in Wellingborough sold more than 71,000 tickets to events in 2014-15, an increase of 1,340 on the previous year.

It also saw an increase in the number of professional artistic events, community events, and functions, business and private events held there.

The figures were contained in a report on the theatre’s performance discussed by members of Wellingborough Council’s partnerships and performance committee this week.

It covered the theatre’s performance at the end of the financial year 2014-15, activity in the first months of 2015-16 and a forecast for the second half of the financial year.

Among the highlights was last year’s Christmas show, Pinocchio, which saw more than 75 young people from the borough involved in the show alongside the professional cast and the highest public ticket sales for a Christmas show to date.

The comedy programme is going from strength to strength, with acts including Lee Evans, Josh Widdicombe and Alan Carr driving sell-out audiences.

Contemporary dance is another area which the theatre would like to expand, and they have secured specific funding streams to support dance development.

However, the commerical trading side of the business, the bar, cafe and functions, saw a decrease in sales of about £16,000 in 2014-15.

This has mostly been attributed to a continued decline in daytime sales, and while the sale of alcohol and non-hot beverages in the evenings has grown, it is not as high as they felt it should be.

A report by director of The Castle (Wellingborough) Ltd Darren Walter said they had to ‘take definitive action on the bar and cafe trading’ so they have been working with Tom Hewer Enterprises to take over the running of the bar and cafe and open a new on-site restaurant, Franks Hamburger House.

Mr Hewer already has several restaurants in Northampton and recently opened a new one in Towcester.

It is hoped the new initiative will mean the commercial trading operation returns to what it should be.

But while they wait to see how it goes, pre-sales for the theatre’s Autumn season are looking strong and classes are now at an all-time high in terms of number of classes, participants and revenue generated by it.

The Christmas show, A Christmas Carol, is also ahead on like-for-like sales of last year’s Pinocchio and the theatre has launched its new Business Club as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations.

Looking ahead, Mr Walter’s report states: “We have been informed our revenue grant from Wellingborough Borough Council is being reduced by a further 15 per cent next year (in addition to the 15 per cent cut this year).

“We have been working throughout this year to develop proposals for finding a sustainable way for arts and culture in the borough to survive and thrive in the borough.

“A key part of this has been the commissioning of a feasibility study to address both the venue’s needs, its options for the future and the business plan that needs to underpin any developments.”