News from the council
As our AGM has had to be postponed until later in the year the members of the council have compiled individual reports on their areas of responsibility’
After being a member of the Stables theatre since I was 18 and taking on many roles within the Theatre I was pleased to finally become a member of the Council and have enjoyed being a part of the inner sanctum of the Stables over the past year. Being a part of the decision-making process and helping to shape the Theatre into becoming a thriving Community Theatre has been a pleasure.
My first event was the Stables’ first ever entry into the Old Town Carnival Pram Race. Being situated in the Old Town and as the Pram race usually attracts lots more crowds now than the traditional Carnival I thought it would be a prime opportunity to coincide this with some publicity for the December production of Treasure Island. We had a budding team of volunteers from all different departments of the Theatre who all worked together to construct the huge non-motorised Treasure Island ship and dress our team of Pram Race entrants. Special thanks go to our team who took part taking on some rather awful forfeits from eating chili marshmallows, dog biscuits, blended fish and chips and a jellied eel trifle amongst others! It was a huge success and the crowds loved our 10ft mast and our main attraction – Annie Edwards entertaining the crowds! The Stables Theatre was nominated as a local charity and was chosen by the Old Town carnival committee; our portion of the collection was passed to the Youth Theatre in August.
Another first for the Stables was an entry in the Hastings Pride march in August which was an opportunity for the Stables to show our local community how inclusive and welcoming the Theatre is to all. The theme for the Hastings Pride march 2019 was “Heroes”; our choice was local LGBTQ+ Hero, Alan Turing (sadly, an oftenoverlooked hero of WW2 he was treated terribly at the time by the British Government and forced to undergo a chemical castration. He was only given a Royal pardon in the last decade). Alan Turing, lived in St Leonards and it seemed appropriate to use this local hero. Frank Jenks and team constructed Alan Turing’s Bombe Machine. We took to the march with a wide variety of Stables members from all walks of life and all ages.
The most recent event I organised for the Stables was again another first for the theatre – a Christmas family fun day. This included singers, a Hula Hooper, flash choir, stilt walker, circus skills, local Children’s author and poet Ed Boxall, crafts, food stalls, cakes and of course Father Christmas, elves and again the main attraction (!?) was Annie Edwards as Mrs Christmas! This event attracted approximately 300 people throughout the day from young to old who were all entertained throughout. It included a grand raffle with some extraordinarily good prizes all generously donated from local and national companies. This event raised money for the theatre but more importantly lots of new people who had never even been to the theatre before came and enjoyed themselves with many people commenting on how welcoming the Theatre is and how they hoped for more events of this nature.
Considering the current climate and state of lockdown and the uncertainty of the world I would like to build on the successful events that we have taken part in this year and keep the Stables Theatre as a huge part of the local community and not a “closed book”. However, obviously we cannot commit us to any events at this point but please take it as read that as soon as there’s an event for us to take part in I will certainly be getting on board!
If you hear of an event we should be a part of or have an idea for an event that we can hold please do let me know so that we can make an incredible come back! Stay safe and well everyone.
As well as running the bar with the help of the excellent bar committee, I do some set building along with making props and illusions and attend to the repair and maintenance of the building and grounds. I also help to run the theatre training and safety courses.
Last year I arranged for a new roof to be fitted over the bar area and for the gutters to be professionally cleaned, along with new up lighting to our signage and logo at the front of the theatre; this year so far I have fitted new stainless worktops in the bar and new heaters throughout the Theatre and helped with the fitting of a new CCTV system.
Because of the enforced closure I have had to postpone the cleaning contract and bin emptying until further notice and we have cleared the bar and coffee shop of all short-dated food and taken it to a local food bank. We have checked the bar stock and removed some-short dated bottles. The set builders found a few free beers on their workbench!
In early March I produced a charity event to raise money towards prostate cancer research and robotic surgery at the Eastbourne General hospital. With the fantastic help of all concerned we raised a total of £2318! This money is being delivered by our Treasurer and I have already had a thank you from Prostate Cancer UK.
I look forward to seeing you all again when things return to normal.
2019 saw my 13th year of selection as a Member having served 8 of those years as Chairman.
Our new Chairman, Neil Sellman, who has worked tirelessly and extremely positively in his first year in post looking at every aspect of the Theatre’s activities, wisely chose to reinstate the system of forming a group of Councillors each of whom had a specific task related to a specific activity who could report at every monthly meeting to him and all fellow members so that the running of our Theatre was truly a well organised ‘Team Effort’.
To play my part in this effective team I have overseen/been aware of the formation of all the major aspects of Marketing, ie. advertising, publicity and budget control which are produced by extremely well qualified volunteers eg. Cliff Brooker – ‘What’s On’ and Posters/Publicity documents, Marketing guidance and support of Play Directors, Peter Mould – Photography, Countless members who have contributed to- social media, Henri Hayler – Budgets and financial control.
With the day to day knowledge of the Chairman I have presented a verbal report at each of the Council Meetings this year.
In short, my task is to help find ways in which we keep the name of our Theatre on the lips of all our members and potential visitors.
My other regular contribution, performed alongside my wife Joan who does Tea/Coffee duties, is Front of House. This is an important role which enables me to judge first-hand the moods and likes and dislikes of our customers, ensure that they are aware of all upcoming shows, and report this information to the Council each month.
2019 was a memorable year as it was the 60th Anniversary. Early in the season a Sub-Committee was formed to organise the whole programme of special events to celebrate the year. As a member of this Sub-Committee I was involved in the organisation of all these events but, in particular, I arranged all the activities of the special Little Theatre Guild Southern meeting which was held at the Theatre in September. This involved booking the Local hotel facilities for the welcome night and the workshops and presentations for the Saturday and Sunday and slotting these into the main programme with the help of our very versatile and diligent Secretary, Harriet Davey.
In addition to having a specific title and job function each Council Member naturally helps where he/she is needed. Two specific examples. I organised the purchase and installation the new external Theatre Front Signage and Seahorse Theatre Logo which involved setting up the design with Cliff Brooker and establishing the installation characteristics with Mike Willard before locating and choosing the best supplier on economic and aesthetic grounds and the second was the purchase of the stainless steel which Mike Willard required to refurbish the inner counter of the bar; I was able to source this special material, which had to be tailor-made to Mike’s drawings from a local specialist (at half the normal retail price).
In conclusion I am happy to use my many years of experience as a businessman and one who has had a lifelong interest in ‘Theatre’ to serve as a Councillor to promote and support what is a well-run and extremely successful amateur theatre which is staffed by a team of volunteers with an extraordinary range of skills.
Since my election I have dealt with the following:
1. Advising on and redrafting the Contract for The Hire of the Theatre by visiting individuals and companies with specific regard to professional productions.
2. Advising on and redrafting the Function Room Hire Agreement
3. Advising on, updating and redrafting the Theatre’s Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy documents including procedures and statements to meet the requirements of East Sussex County Council.
4. Considering and redrafting The Art Gallery Contract – ongoing project.
5. Advising on the procedure to ensure the legality of the Barbara Flynn necklace draw. Advising on the format of the tickets and appropriate publicity.
6. Perusing and advising on the Contract forwarded by the proposed suppliers of new automatic doors for the Theatre.
7. Assisting with advice on the essential requirements of the Annual General Meeting having regard to the relevant paragraphs of the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
I was the Chairman of the sub-committee formed to plan and arrange the events selected to celebrate the Theatre’s 60th Anniversary. This included the hosting of the Annual Meeting of the Southern Region Little Theatre Guild held in September.
The Stables Archive covers the whole period since the Theatre was first thought of to the present day. Bearing in mind the primary function of the Charity/Trust is to preserve the actual building, there is a great deal of historical matter – following on from that are records of every performance and event since the opening in 1959. Over the last year the number of enquiries and requests for information has increased
The Bechstein full concert grand piano has been in use more this year also. The quest goes on to find a better way of moving it on and off stage – it weighs half a ton!! Next year we will be supporting the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition again – the Bechstein is a favourite rehearsal piano – if you are working in the Theatre you get the chance to enjoy some wonderful music.
We are very fortunate indeed to now have such a well-equipped and financially secure Theatre. The Theatre originally started with a large overdraft and hand me down equipment – many volunteers have given a great deal of their time and passionate belief in the Theatre to get where we are to-day.
Publicity encompasses just about everything the Stables presents to the public in published form, both off-line and on. This includes posters, flyers, programmes, exterior and pop-up banners, our “What’s On” publications (available to the general public as well as members) plus images for the website and Facebook.
Last year was a little different. Being our 60th anniversary we also wanted to remind people of what has been achieved over the theatre’s remarkable history. To this end we mounted an exhibition of 22 posters in the Gwen Watford Gallery and bar area representing a selection of the plays we have produced since our 50th anniversary in 2009, and we published a full-colour 20-page A4 history of the theatre. We also took the opportunity to revisit the external theatre signage; this was looking somewhat jaded having been in place for over 40 years and was in need of upgrading. The new signage (illuminated at night when the theatre is open) has been brought up-to-date in line with our current branding and now includes, prominently displayed, the much-loved and instantly-recognisable seahorse logo.
Soon we shall bring the display boards, listing every one of our productions since 1959, up to date (this has been temporarily postponed!) so you can see the remarkable range of shows we have presented over the past 60 years.
My main role is to act as the representative for all matters backstage; this entails maintaining regular contact with the backstage team to ensure that staffing, equipment, health and safety and contracts with incoming shows are all appropriately observed and that any issues are reported to the Council.This rarely presents any difficulty which makes my job a lot easier!
I also run the wardrobe department which has recently been refitted, and help out with the coffee rota and special events when required. I was pleased to be part of the hospitalities team for our Theatre’s anniversary celebrations in 2019 and for the Little Theatre Guild conference last summer.
By involving myself in frontline activities, in addition to my backstage commitments, I believe that I have the ability to represent the opinions of those working in theatre and of the visiting public.