Hastings council has almost halved the management fee it pays to keep the White Rock Theatre running.
Figures seen by Hastings In Focus indicate that under the new contract just signed with HQ Theatres and Hospitality Ltd Hastings Borough Council (HBC) will pay £1.75m over the next five years as the ‘management fee’ an average of just £350,000 per year – that’s a saving of almost 50 per cent on the £649,450 per year it has been paying up to now.
In a press release issued yesterday morning announcing the new deal HBC said: “the White Rock Theatre will operate on a much reduced management fee from HBC,” but the release did not say how much that was going to be. Hastings In Focus asked for clarification from HBC’s press office in an email that said: “…the release says there will be a ‘much reduced’ management fee being paid by HBC. What is the new fee and how does that compare to what has been paid in the past?”
This afternoon HBC’s press office confirmed the figures to us and the new deal will see the amount paid by HBC to HQ Theatres and Hospitality Ltd reduce each year over the five years of the contract period.
The new contract kicks in next February and information we have seen suggests the council will pay £550,000 in year one; in year two it will pay £450,000; £350,000 in year three; £250,000 in year four and only £150,000 in the final year. We understand that when negotiations between HBC and HQ Theatres and Hospitality Ltd began it was the council’s goal to cut it’s bill to sustain the White Rock in half and it has come very close to achieving that.
In the fifth and final year of the contract there is also provision for the council to pay up to an additional £80,000 should there be redundancy costs. In addition there are repair and renewal contributions by the Council which are similar to existing arrangements.
The new contract secures the future of Hastings’ iconic White Rock Theatre. Opened in 1927, the venue is Hastings’ principal theatre space offering a broad programme of theatre, music, comedy and a popular Christmas pantomime. It hosts the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition and is also home to numerous amateur and community arts events.
The new contract will run from February next year until February 2024.
HQ Theatres say it has plans to develop many kinds of programming including touring musicals. The Sussex Studio space is being improved to offer better facilities for small-scale theatre and music, and will continue to be available free-of-charge for meetings, rehearsals and community events for local organisations.
Councillor Kim Forward, Hastings Borough Council’s lead councillor for regeneration and culture said: “I am very pleased to see the commitment to greater community involvement by HQ… HBC’s regeneration plan for the Bohemia area gives us a great opportunity to look at the need for both improved and an increased number of performance spaces to reflect the importance we place on culture and the arts in our town.”
Julian Russell, CEO of HQ Theatres and Hospitality said: “The White Rock Theatre is a vital cultural asset to the local community so we’re delighted about this positive outcome which will meet the needs of all key stakeholders including HBC, our loyal audience and the many local organisations and community groups who regularly use the facilities at the theatre.”