Ticket sales up but The Maltings reports £21,500 deficit

THEATREGOERS and film fans have been flocking to The Maltings in record numbers.

Officials at the arts complex revealed that ticket sales for the last four months have been almost double that for the same period last year.

Between April and July this year, The Maltings sold 10,289 tickets for film and live performances, up from just 6365 tickets sold in the same period in 2008.

Chief executive, Dr Miles Gregory, said: "Naturally we are very excited to see our audience figures up by this extraordinary amount and we will continue to bring the best entertainment we can to Berwick.

"In the last few months we've welcomed Germaine Greer, Sir Andrew Motion, Jason Manford, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Chris Barber, Camille O'Sullivan and Mark Thomas, amongst many others.

"Our autumn line-up is even stronger, particularly in terms of stand-up comedy. We knew that there was a strong appetite in the area for high-quality performance, but we never expected to see sales nearly double."

Initiatives such as the refurbishment of the main house theatre, foyer and bar, together with the re-launch of the Friends of The Maltings scheme have also helped increase audience numbers.

The introduction of stand-up comics such as Jason Manford, whose shows this year both sold out, has attracted a new, younger audience.

Maurice Ward, chairman of The Maltings board of trustees, added: "We're delighted with this exceptional performance in a challenging economic environment and we are very grateful to our funders and community, who continue to support us.

"We are right behind Miles and his team as they work to put The Maltings back on the map."

The success has been achieved against a background of a difficult 2008-2009 financial year in which the theatre saw a 13 per cent cut in its council grant funding - a total of more than 17,000 per year.

"As well as the cut in funding, we have also had to deal with unexpected expenditure on long-term staff sick pay," Mr Ward added.

"Six years ago, the Lancaster Report, commissioned by Berwick Borough Council, said The Maltings needed an extra 30,000 core funding to continue to thrive. Sadly this was never forthcoming, and regrettably last year our grant was further cut.

"The result is that our balance sheet for the last financial year shows a 21,519 deficit.

"It is only our upturn in trading that has kept that figure in check."

The new expanded programme, improved building management and an increase in revenues from initiatives such as opening the newly renamed Stage Door Bar four nights a week indicate that The Maltings should trade out of the deficit in the course of the current financial year.

"Nevertheless, we will continue to lobby for the grant to be reinstated and are looking forward to our new relationship with the Northumberland County Council who we know will recognise the vital contribution The Maltings makes to our region," said Mr Ward.

The Maltings' annual report pays tribute to the Friends of The Maltings, who provide both financial support and invaluable voluntary stewarding, and to other individuals, trusts, business and organisations who support the theatre's work.

"We are very grateful to our volunteer stewards in particular, who are a really positive and cheerful bunch of people, who do a great job."

Plans for next year include the refurbishment of the Henry Travers Studio above the main house to provide a high-quality venue for small-scale entertainment and experimental or intimate performances.

Programming will also include more stand-up comedy to sustain the growth in younger audiences while still retaining The Maltings' traditional commitment to local performance.

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