|A message from our Artistic Director, Jez Bond|
|To our wonderful audience members,When a body plunges into icy water, blood flows away from the skin and to the vital organs in order to keep its core temperature from reaching a critical low. As storytelling is our craft you will, I hope, appreciate the analogy. The last few months have been the toughest we’ve faced in our charity’s seven plus years. Since the metaphorical plunge following our closure back in March we have quite simply directed all our resources to keeping our company alive – taking advantage of the furlough scheme, reducing cash burn and, in the meantime, looking to every possible life-saving source out there. As such I hope you will understand and forgive our reduced communications in recent months – something I’m intending to rectify today as I write to you, to let you know both our current health and, as much as one can, what the future might hold…Firstly a huge thank you again to all those who gave so incredibly generously during the first few weeks of our campaign. You provided a lifeline at a time when things were at their bleakest and when we were in danger of going under. Thanks to you and the £400,000 you collectively donated (between personal pledges on the phone, our Park Life GoFundMe campaign online plus our Gift Aid claim on eligible donations), we were able to furlough our staff and to keep our heads above the water while we awaited further government guidance. We then secured a £35,000 grant from the Arts Council, which was the maximum that any organisation could receive in that round.|
|The remarkable fundraising to date will allow us to stay afloat until early in the new year – but beyond this we will once again start to feel the cold chill setting in. There are two factors that will affect our next steps at that point:The first is whether we will be successful in our upcoming application to the Culture Recovery Fund; approximately £880m of the £1.57b that the government announced last month is will be made available through grants to cultural institutions – galleries, museums, music venues, cinemas, theatres etc. We are applying for around £250,000 as this is the true figure needed to not just to keep us afloat into next financial year but also to ensure that, when we reopen, we can operate at the same level as before closure: delivering all our projects; shows; community programmes; and suite of access performances.The second factor is when, and how, we will be able to reopen. As it stands,opening with social distancing just isn’t possible – like most other theatres up and down the country we need to fill around 70% of our seats to have a chance of breaking even on a show. At a distance of one metre between household groups all modelling suggests an average of just 30% would be achievable. With this is mind the only way we could viably open would be either to raise enough extra funds to subsidise running at a major loss (which doesn’t seem realistic to the degree that would be needed) or, if the government allowed, to reopen without social distancing but, instead, with other measures in place: such as temperature screenings; a more stringent cleaning regime (for example spraying the auditorium down before/after each performance, as well as increased bathroom cleaning); a limited bar service; and sanitiser stations around the building. All of this of course means more money would need to be raised and – as these are all hypotheticals – whilst we are looking into options, nothing concrete can be planned yet.|
|The next guidance due from the government is, they say, in November. As an industry we are hoping that at this point they will suggest a date at which we might be able to open without social distancing, perhaps with other measures in place as I’ve suggested. Given this, we wouldn’t have time to safely reopen until some point in the new year. Add to this the increase in infection rates in a number of countries, not the least our own, and things might take a further few months to reduce to a point where the government, and audiences, have faith in returning to enclosed spaces. Incidentally Cameron Mackintosh recently announced that none of his theatres or shows were likely to reopen before Easter – whilst a few months back that would have seemed a hugely pessimistic option, we have to consider that as a possibility for us all.|
Whatever the case, it will be some months before that buzz of our building with which you are all so familiar returns. I can’t wait to invite you back in and, in the meantime, we are exploring ways of using the great facility we have to develop work with BAME artists so that, whilst the general public may not yet be allowed to enter en masse, we might start using our resources to support others. On this note I’m delighted to let you know that we’ve managed to keep all of our community engagement work active; taking our classes for young people, for adults and for those with dementia and their carers online. I’m proud that, despite our own ongoing battle, our committed team have worked hard and truly delivered for many of the most isolated and in-need members of our community.
|As many of you have said to me verbatim, Park Theatre is too important to lose. I’m humbled that we play such an important part in your lives and am determined that we remain to do so. Our online Park Life campaign is still active and if you’ve not yet managed to donate – or if you have but feel able and generous enough to give again – we will all be most grateful for your support. Remember, every pound raised is a few more minutes we can breathe in that icy water.|
Together we’ll do this! I wish you and your loved ones well,
|Jez Bond I Artistic Director|