Princess Theatre Burnham-On-Sea

Burnham-On-Sea’s Princess Theatre is set to see a raft of changes in a bid to make it more financially viable following a vote by Town Councillors last night (Tuesday, June 20th).

Members of the Town Council’s Princess Management Committee considered an independent review of the theatre which the council commisioned earlier this year.

The initial report by GJG Consultancy and Phill Smith sought “to provide insights into the venue’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges.”

The report assessed “the current state of the theatre, including its staffing, financial situation, community support, potential lost income, audience profiles, and other relevant aspects.”

Burnham-On-Sea Princess Theatre

Councillors have supported the eight key recommendations from the report, listed below, which will now be taken forward. Several will not proceed until a new manager is in post. This follows the previous manager stepping down last December, as reported here.

The report found that “the current staffing situation at the Princess Theatre includes a small dedicated team facing additional pressure due to the absence of clear leadership.” It also highlights that “hidden support is provided to local community groups through subsidy of hire rates, resulting in a financial burden on the venue.”

The report adds that “opportunities for cost-saving include reviewing commercial hire costs, renegotiating contracts, and implementing tighter budget control. Revenue opportunities lie in securing funding from Somerset Council and Arts Council England, exploring additional revenue sources, and implementing marketing strategies.”

Council backs theatre recommendations:

• Immediately address the absence of clear leadership, and provide support to existing
• A temporary manager (4 to 6 days a month) could provide leadership and staff support until a new manager can be appointed.
• Review community hire charges and renegotiate contracts to alleviate financial burden.
• Review commercial hire contracts and renegotiate to reclaim lost expenditure.
• Review the cafe / bar contract at the end of the lease term.
• Implement tighter budget control and efficient management accounting practices.
• Explore funding opportunities from Somerset Council and Arts Council England.
• Develop marketing and programming strategies to attract a wider audience and increase

The report noted that the theatre’s “expenditure, with new budgets, is roughly in line with similar-scale organisations in the region. Post-COVID, income has improved; however, it remains lower than in other venues.”

It adds: “The current subsidy pricing model does not always adequately cover expenses. There are lost opportunity costs, such as Sunday afternoons, that could be utilised for more commercial activities.” The report also adds that “There is potential for the venue to be more commercially driven, but this could impact community benefit.”

“Opportunities for increasing income include implementing box office agency fees for hires, early/late get-in fees, marketing contra fees, beyond basic technical cost contras, and even customer booking fees.”

Princess Theatre Burnham-On-Sea

“A new manager should explore the possibilities of securing funding from Somerset Council and Arts Council England as well as other key stakeholders. There is a potential for further grant funding through The Friends of the Princess, setting up as a separate charity and securing additional funds.”

One theatre user, Oliver Hulme, spoke at the meeting and gave his personal opinion that voluntary groups who use the theatre should not be impacted by increased costs.

Cllr Peter Clayton proposed that councillors accept the report’s recommendations, seconded by Cllr Catherine Searing, which was supported by a majority of councillors.

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