Public Appeal Launched To Boost Funds Of Education Project

Already £2.3m of the £3.9m cost of the project has been raised and now the public appeal is being announced to help boost the project’s coffers alongside public fundraising initiatives, and activities in the theatre such as bucket collections.

Ways the public can support Stage Two include:

  • Text STGE2 plus £ and the figure you wish to donate, to 70070
  • Contribute to the buckets and collection tins around the building
  • Fill a donation envelope available from the Box Office
  • Donate £25 to have your name as part of a supporters mural
  • Organise an event with the help of a specially created Community Fundraising Pack.

The announcement comes at the theatre’s annual meeting where the venue’s performance over the past 12 months will be revealed.

It will show the educational work already happening within the community, which can be built on with the advent of Stage Two. A total of 381 school parties attended performances, 49 workshops or educational events were attended by over 5100 students, and over 600 young people have been trained in theatre skills.

In addition, 170 pupils have performed their own versions of well-known operas on the theatre stage as part of the Norfolk Schools Project, over 1400 people have taken part in school and community group backstage tours, and there have been 49 week-long work experience placements.

The annual meeting will also hear the theatre’s net surplus before depreciation is £217,397, which is a decrease of £563,937 on the previous year. Peter Wilson, the theatre’s chief executive, said two main factors contributed to the decrease. “The first and greatest was a drop in retained box office income. Some, although not all, was due to the sales and expenditure of the visiting Wagnerian operas from Freiburg in June 2014 but there were also some disappointing sales elsewhere, although some of this impact was mitigated by the excellent pantomime results.

“Secondly we missed the income from the Houghton Revisited exhibition which had been fruitful for us in 2013”.The theatre enjoyed a host of on-stage highlights including revivals of Cats and West Side Story which both almost sold out, Singin In The Rain which featured a top-class cast and 15,000 litres of water, the panto Peter Pan which was the highest-grossing in the theatre’s history missing out on £1m of sales by just £4000, and the challenging Two Worlds of Charlie F which explored the lives of veterans who suffered life-changing injuries in conflict.

Peter Wilson added: “One of the absolute highlights was Matthew Bourne’s version of Lord of the Flies which used local male dancers alongside his company. It had been a considerable risk to commit ourselves to this production over a year in advance before we knew much about its ambitions or had identified whether there was enough local talent. In the event, it was solidly supported, brilliantly performed and gratifyingly popular.”

Average occupancy through the year remained buoyant at 75 per cent, a three per cent year-on-year increase, and the number of Friends also increased from 12,408 to 12,765.

Norwich Theatre Royal also compared favourably in a comparison of 14 other similar-sized venues in a survey. The total of seats sold (387,165) is higher than the national average of 294,671. The Theatre Royal’s average capacity of 75 per cent is also 19 per cent higher than the national percentage of 56.

Now Peter Wilson and his team are looking forward to building on their educational offering within Stage Two and looking ahead to the next 12 months. “After the financial successes of previous years, the relative drop in surplus was a good reminder of how fragile the business of theatre is,” he said.

“We deal in ‘theatrical futures’ by committing ourselves many months in advance to hundreds of thousands of pounds of risk in the belief, backed by our expertise and supported by our Trustees, that tickets will be bought in sufficient quantities.  “That we have been proved right so often over the years is a tribute to the remarkable abilities of every one of my colleagues.”