Theatre Club 'appalled' by Council funding decision

March 10, 2019

St Mary’s Theatre Club has said it is “appalled” after the Council voted against supporting the Folk Festival or One Act Play Festival from its Community Fund this year.

 

The group said they felt they were depicted as "greedy" by Cllr Joel Williams at last week's meeting, despite having only asked for help twice in their 50 year history.

 

The Isles of Scilly Folk Club had applied for £1,500 for an expanded 2019 Folk Festival, while Theatre Club requested £315 to support this year's One Act Play Festival and a further £300 for the next two years.

 

However, Cllr Williams said that Folk Club have received funding five years out of six and Theatre Club have  £11,500 in the bank, saying there were more "innovative, valuable and worthwhile" projects to support. 

 

Theatre Club secretary Jenny Byers pointed out that the group have been losing around £3,000 per year because it cannot use the Town Hall stage.

 

A new recommendation from Cllr Williams for a review of the process and criteria for allocation of the Fund was passed unanimously.

 

Read Theatre Club's full statement below: 

 

We were appalled when we watched the video link of the Council meeting last Tuesday. Appalled on a number of accounts:

 

COMMUNITY FUND as on the Council’s website:

‘Under the terms of the Local Government Act 2000, the Council of the Isles of Scilly is permitted to give financial assistance to any organisation or individual where it considers this will be likely to promote or improve the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of the islands.

 

In accordance with this, the Council sets aside an annual budget of £3,500 for a Community Fund. Once this budget has been allocated no further applications will be progressed in the financial year.

 

We welcome applications for grants in support of community events and capital projects, such as the purchase of equipment and works to buildings.’

 

There is no stipulation how much money an organisation should or should not have before applying for this Community Fund. At the time of the meeting our balance was £2,000 lower than shown in the last full year’s accounts, which were the only complete set of accounts we could submit with our application and on which Councillor Williams commented.

 

As nobody asked to clarify why we had this money in our account, one can only presume that our proposal had not been fully digested. Our application pointed out that we are losing about £3,000 per annum due to not being able to stage a full production because of the current situation with the stage in the Town Hall. In addition we had to pay out over £800+ for a Town Hall stage survey, which saw a big chunk of money taken from our accounts. We have overheads in the thousands each year for insurance and storage. 

 

If we were able to produce a play we would need a working amount of at least £2,000-£3,000 to pay for Royalties and the rest. We have to be very careful in the management of our resources and it is very frustrating to see the money being whittled away without any recourse. 

 

Recent pantomime costs were over £1,500 and we made a loss on it but we did it because we are entertainers, and a quarter of the islands' population turned out to be entertained. So we are not rolling in money.

 

At the Council meeting, both applicants were made to look like they were just a greedy group of people taking advantage of a scheme that only three groups were supposed to know about. Basically we would have had a lot more in the bank if we hadn’t expended it on the Town Hall stage over the years, which has benefitted so many people in the Community and has brought in considerable revenue for the Council.

 

Councillor Williams said about other groups being given a chance but Councillor Marcus did point out that our application was properly submitted (as was Folk Club who were also turned down) for the year 2018-2019 and we were the only two applicants with just two months to go. 

 

If other groups ’deserve’ the money more than we both do, why haven’t they applied?  We have worked tirelessly to find out who is giving grants, including ones to pay for the stage renovation, so logically other people/organisations can do that too. Nobody knocked on our door and said, “Did you know….?”

 

How can the Councillors change the rules, to which both groups complied, part way through the year; is that even legal? If you put a policy in place how can you just remove it because you don’t agree with or like the organisations who applied? Was this even the right place for Councillors to question the whole point of the Community Fund, withhold funds, or carry them over to next year, and suggest the criteria should be changed so more deserving people can benefit?

 

Over 50 years of our existence we have never asked for help, until last year and again this year when facing the prospect of investing heavily in new venue/equipment etc. Since 2015 we have been doing our utmost to keep the Club alive and at the same time find funds to renovate the Town Hall stage, which historically was recognised as our ‘home’, and it has serviced many other groups. 

 

I believe both groups have served the islands well and more than fulfil the criteria set out in the current terms of the Community Fund. Would the Councillors perhaps reconsider their decision.

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