A festive message from our Chairman - December 2020

Dear Members, Patrons and supporters of the Sleaford Little Theatre and the Playhouse,
The year 2019, which seems such a long time ago now, was one of highs and lows. The Foyer was completed in May despite losing our bid to the Arts Council. Thankfully some incredibly generous members offered the SLT loans to cover our costs. 

The season of plays was magnificent, Twelfth Night was a surprising hit. Over the five performances, the average attendance was 85 per performance. We were never quite sure if the Sleaford community would take to the bard, but they were mesmerised by Maria Bates’ adaptation and one of my favourite comments was that of an audience member who had recently been to a Tolethorpe production and felt that ours was far superior. It was a fantastic cast and I personally really enjoyed being part of it. It was the best-grossing play of the year, which was helped by its low budget. Congratulations to Maria, and her cast and crew.

Paul Sproxton who played a magnificent Malvolio, sadly passed away suddenly, in the early part of September. Paul had a great presence on and off the stage and I am sure we will all miss him terribly. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his widow and family. 

Nell Gwynn was our next offering and my goodness what a fine romp it was. Alan Robey really surpassed himself with an excellent cast and crew and it was great to have another show with singing and dancing. Over the four performances, the average turnout was 101.

Finally the Panto, directed by Jane Guest, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was once again a sell-out show, the average attendance over the 9 performances was 115. I heard that people had real trouble getting hold of tickets due to its popularity. It netted nearly £400 per performance. 

There was also a raft of external acts Bon Joe V, Band Called Malice and Killer Rhapsody being the most successful in terms of attendance. Thanks to Jane Guest for organising all the external acts.

In May the trustees were joined by Christina Morris as treasurer and she has done a magnificent job of getting on top of the accounts, helping with the transition to CIO status and taking us forward with all the elements of compliance that our new status requires. She even held her nerve during the dreadful period in which the society was without a bank account. Many would have walked away at that point, so she is to be commended for her resolve. 

Unfortunately, due to work commitments Tracey Inkpin, who was our compliance officer also had to resign. We thank her for all the hard groundwork that she undertook prior to her resignation.

In September 2019 Mary Rudkin stepped down as our Honorary Secretary. The level of commitment Mary has shown the society over the years is quite outstanding. We had every intention of thanking her at an event in 2020, but we will get to that in a moment. Thank you, Mary, for all your hard work and offering me the guidance and support that I needed when I took over as Chairman in 2018. Christine Malkin kindly took on the role temporarily until the AGM.

September also brought a mysterious donation. Emma Albuxeich found a brown paper bag in her pigeonhole at Carre’s Grammar School. Written on the outside of the bag was ‘Anonymous Donation Little Theatre’. I had an excited phone call from Emma that she had this package in her possession that seemed to contain a considerable wad of £20 notes. On counting, it appeared that there was £1000. We still do not know where it came from, but if ever the trustees needed a lift from the doom and gloom this certainly hit the spot. Thank you whoever you are, we only wished we could tell you how truly grateful we are.

The AGM of course had to be postponed. We took the decision that a Zoom meeting would not be appropriate for all. If we arrive at May and once again cannot have an AGM in person we will make an attempt to hold it online, allowing a longer preparation period for people to air what they may wish, well in advance. In particular for those without access to the internet. 

Jo Moules and Maria Bates started the Sleaford Little Theatre Academy. It has been incredibly well attended and they are itching to get going again in 2021.

In November David Malkin stood down from being a trustee. Thanks for all your hard work David and here’s hoping you are having a quieter life.

This of course brings us to 2020. Where does one start?

Well, in February I resigned from the post of Chairman effective at the next AGM. The reasons were related to the loss of my dear Stepmother, Gill. I also felt the need to spend more time on developing a business in Rauceby to allow my family to be able to afford to live here. Of course, we haven’t had an AGM, so I am still here. 

We were all ready for ‘Two’ in March of this year. The set is still there as it was left prior to lockdown. 

That’s right Covid 19 shut us down in March for a twelve-week lockdown. The trustees last met in person on 19th March. We were full of optimism. The whole 2020 programme would be moved to September. We would have to refund our external acts and take re-bookings for post lockdown and we refunded all tickets for ‘Two’. We also sent out Covid-19 update statements. We took advantage of the government grant and received £10,000. This was just a small hiccup and surely we would get through it quickly and return to normality.

Since then the trustees have met regularly via Zoom. As the year progressed and the restrictions on social distancing became apparent, we were met with the stark reality that the theatre was going to be closed for the foreseeable future. We had to look into ways of sourcing additional funding. A huge vote of thanks has to go to Tony Gordon who attempted under extremely difficult circumstances to apply for a grant from the Arts Council. 
Unfortunately, it proved too exacting and we missed the opportunity, but have learnt a great deal from it.

I do not wish to deliver too much doom and gloom, but suffice to say the trustees are working tirelessly to protect the future of the SLT and the Playhouse. On a positive note, we have a healthy bank account although the running costs are still very relevant even with a closed theatre. Especially as the building needs continual maintenance. We have plans to take out some major works due to damp in the new year. We hoped to have it completed in 2020 but our builders Willow Homes have had to adjust to restrictions also, so their work takes longer and therefore we have had to await our turn. Despite all the assistance from the government we are still going to make a loss this year.

The future of the SLT and the Playhouse is rosy. We have the newly formed SLTA and we have Tom Creasey with his Cinema poised to forge ahead thanks to a donation of a five thousand pound projector donated by Mrs G V Hoare’s estate. We also have a full programme of plays planned well ahead and external acts waiting in the wings to snap our hands for an opportunity to perform. We intended to celebrate our 70th year in May during  Sleaford Live and at the soonest possible moment we will bring those ideas out of mothballs. We are also working on a raft of ideas to ensure the society’s sustainability.

January is typically subscription renewal time. The trustees agreed to increase the subscription to £12 in 2018 and it came into effect in 2019. I am not sure the message got through to everyone. There is no discount now for paying by direct debit. Obviously, some might think that there is little value to paying a subscription when nothing is happening. I urge you to consider that the theatre survives on the goodwill of its patrons and members. We need your help more than ever and a pound a month to invest in something that we all love so very much is a small amount to pay to see its continued health.

This past year has been hard for all of us, it continues to be as we go into further restrictions. I am hopeful that 2021 will bring a return to normal thanks to the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccination. We don’t really know when we will be through this when we can open the theatre doors when we can all participate in the things that we love and enjoy and get the family back together.

From the ashes that is Covid-19, a phoenix of resolve has risen. Kei Bailey and Maria Bates have been involved in many online productions. Kei very kindly offered to write a script for the SLT called ‘Polly Perkins and the Lost Treasure of Captain Crabfoot’. This is cast and will be rehearsed via Zoom in January 2021 and will be aired at the end of the month. We will inform you all of when and where to listen out for it.

We also have decided to stage an outside production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The Shakespearean play will be adapted and directed by Maria Bates and performed in the Garden of Rauceby Hall in July 2021. This will happen regardless of restrictions and will be performed in conjunction with any health and safety procedures necessary.

Auditions will take place in February and full details will be available soon.

I would like to reassure everyone that the trustees are continuing to work behind the scenes to secure the future of the building and the society. The building is visited regularly and we react to those reporting to us to ensure that the necessary maintenance is continued whilst it is empty.

It only remains for me to hope that you all enjoyed the spirit of the festive season and that 2021 brings us all much good health, love and happiness. Stay safe.

With all best wishes

Jonny Hoare

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