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Council approve third-party management of Newark's Palace Theatre

By AlexColman  |  Posted: January 18, 2013

Proposals- Mathew Finch from Newark and Sherwood District Council, Councillor Roger Jackson and theatre business manager Kevan Jackson at the Palace.

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Newark's Palace Theatre will be managed by a third-party after the motion has been approved at a council cabinet meeting.

Newark and Sherwood District Council has been considering different options for running the theatre since May 2012.

The Commissioning Group believes third-party management will help increase the use of the theatre and could secure its future for 10 to 15 years.

Councillors are now looking for a party experienced in theatre management to take on a contract for 10 to 15 years. The building will remain in the council's ownership.

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Staff currently working at the theatre will be transferred over to work for the company.

The contract will be subject to a competitive tendering process which the council will now embark on, and which is likely to take up to 12 months.

An implementation team will be formed which will include use of external expertise as well as the council’s procurement manager.

Consultations will be carried out with staff and trade unions and the theatre’s programme for the coming year will be unaffected, including the 2013/14 pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The council has been looking at ways of reducing the amount it pays to subsidise the running of the theatre. In 2011/12 the subsidy was £387,000 but was reduced by £100,000 in 2012/13 after the council put in place a number of measures to reduce the theatre’s running costs and increase income.

The theatre subsidy has risen over the past 10 years from £171,159 in 2001/2 to £455,426 in 2010/11. At its highest, the subsidy was equivalent to subsidising each ticket sold to the tune of £8.98.

The council’s cabinet member for Leisure and Culture, Councillor Roger Jackson said: “Now this decision has been made, we must ensure any deal made with a third party provides value for money for the taxpayer and improves the Palace Theatre.

“We should be clear that we are definitely not recommending closure. If the tenders we receive are not suitable, we will not be automatically going down this route and we’ll look at other options.

“The council is not able to match the resources a professional company could bring to the table - if we did, our subsidy would be far higher.

“We are in a position at the moment where the public would not like to see the theatre go, but at the same time are not using it enough. It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it."

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  • mattshep  |  January 21 2013, 11:55AM

    'Use it or lose it' is one of the most frustrating, convenient and over-used phrases in respect of this matter. It's wrong placing the demise of the theatre on the public's shoulders as opposed to looking in house at the way the theatre has been run in recent years. It's quite apparent that if the venue offered a programme that was attractive to the people of Newark and the surrounding area, as opposed to a very select section of the population, then it would be used far more. Unless you read the local people, or walk past the theatre on a regular basis, you wouldn't have any knowledge of what the theatre was offering - which, as i've alluded to, is quite a limited and poor programme in my opinion. If you look at the figures of a report published by NSDC in 2012 you can see shows that have returned despite paltry attendance figures for the first visit. Theatre and the entertainment industry bucks the trend in recession, it always has done and always will. It's quite clear that if the venue offered a diverse and attractive programme, and if NSDC looked at alternative ways in which to utilise the facilities the venue could potentially offer, the Palace Theatre could actually operate with a very limited subsidy.