Annual General Meeting
Minutes of The Swan
Theatre Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Wednesday,
24th April 2019
Meeting started at
Present: Jean Kneller, James Kneller, Jane Barnett, Roger
Chadbourne, Elaine Taylor, Mike Robbins, Robert Graydon, Joe
Wainwright, Annetta Broughton, G Walter, Kim Rixon, Margaret
Akerman, Ron Blake, Graham House, Diane Law, Maureen Smith, Ann
Cook, Peter Riley, Eva Balonova, John Curry, Geoff Kneller, Dick
Bennett, Lynne Bennett, Roger Mumford, Beryl Snadden, Ian White,
Pauline Dagnall, Mark Payne
Apologies: Brian Williams, Carolyn Williams, Denny Robbins,
Steve Poolman, Claire Walford, Christine Mumford, Anthony
Costabadie, Andy Taylor, Adrian Harding, Rachel Butcher, Ed
Butcher, Sheila Driver
1. Welcome (Beryl Snadden, President)
Beryl welcomed everyone and thanked all for their attendance as
well as their continuous support and help in running the theatre
over the past year.
2. Update on Swan rule change at 2018 SGM (Eva
Eva firstly reminded all, as this wasn't included on the agenda,
that the minutes from last year's AGM would not be read out during
the meeting as all members had been sent a copy either via email or
post, and hard copies were also available tonight.
'The 2018 SGM voted to update The Rules in accordance with
proposals made at the SGM. In summary, these were that the three
officer positions would be subject to a DBS check; that all
Committee nominations need to self-certify their eligibility to
stand in accordance with Charity Commission guidelines; and an
amendment to paragraph 7 to reflect that the management Committee
are now considered the Trustees by the Charity Commission and that
we no longer have a separate Board of Trustees.
The Rules have been updated to reflect these changes and can be
viewed online on The Swan website, or there are some hard copies
available this evening.'
Roger Chadbourne, Returning Office, added that all members
would have received all relevant voting information via email or
post, and it was also included in the latest newsletter.
3. Functional Reports
a) Finance (Jean Kneller, Treasurer)
Treasurer's Notes to Financial Report
Overall the accounts show a healthy position again following
another year of successful productions.
The surplus of Income over Expenditure (before depreciation) was
£14,902 (compared to £23,777 the previous year). Income is down by
£5,832 and overheads are up by £3,043. This is mainly due to:
- Net production income is £25,364 (down by £6,435 YOY).
- Production costs have increased by £3.5K although by show,
costs remain constant.
- Production income is down by £3K YoY
- Other income was up by £600 - and 2 year's Gift Aid claims have
today been received for £891.
Net Bar Income year on year is up £1,500, due in part to the
price increase this time last year and to takings from
Cinematheque. Ice cream income is showing down by £500 but often
i/c takings get mixed in with bar. FoH is down slightly but that is
due to timing in paying for FoH stock.
Cinematheque is a new income stream with £1,050 from the letting
(£70 for 15 nights) and bar/ice cream revenue.
Other Overheads - if we ignore The Swan extension project, costs
are down YoY by £3.6K and there's not much scope for further
significant savings. The principal areas to note are:
- Maintenance of the building costs are £4,697 (up by just £343
on previous year)
- Electricity & Gas is down YoY but since these accounts went
in, I have received some hefty bills so please do remember to check
the heating is turned off when you leave the building etc.
- Advertising costs are very low at £154 (these costs have been
reducing each year - down significantly on past years). Our
Marketing Team make good use of social media to raise awareness and
advertise - although we are looking for volunteer help in this
- The Swan extension project costs are shown as £6,677 in the
The 'Improvements to Property' continue to be depreciated (as
agreed 3 AGMs ago) over a 10-year period which is more appropriate
to account for the ongoing nature of the expenditure and to show a
reducing valuation for the costs of improvements that are 'theatre
use' based. Depreciation this year is £28K which is a book entry.
(This ensures a true picture of the asset value and the expenditure
that has been capitalized and is being written off over its useful
Cash at bank @ Feb 28th was £69,189 (up from
£57,850). This includes the main bank account balance £68,211 plus
the 200 Club Account balance £978. 200 Club income is included
within Fundraising income.
Finally, in summary our finances are healthy, and the bank
balance currently stands at just over £75K.
I would like to minute a vote of thanks to Brian Williams for
his help in simplifying the accounts - he does this for me every
year, so we have an easy to understand format
And, a vote of thanks to David Hallett (our Accountant at Reads)
who works free of charge on this every year for us - and to propose
a resolution to reappoint Read & Co as the independent
examiners for the next financial period.
Jean used this opportunity to ask all present to vote
whether they're happy for David Hallett, Read & Co. Chartered
Accountants, to be appointed as our accountant for another year
- All present voted in favour.
Roger Chadbourne, Returning Office, along with a witness,
retired to the Green Room to count voting slips. Results would be
shared at point 4 of the agenda, ie. Elections.
b) Artistic (Ian White, Artistic
'Please note the following comments relate to the past 6 years,
not just this last year.
We have moved towards creating an inclusive environment, where
people can join and become involved as much as they want to be.
There is still some way to go, of course, but if we want the Swan
to have a successful future, or if we want to obtain any sort of
grant funding, then we will have to be an inclusive group. There
remains a view in some places that we are elitist, and we must
continue to work against that perception. And importantly, we no
longer discourage people from short-term membership.
We have returned to offering a much more balanced programme of
productions, which includes more modern plays and plays which
stretch the talents of our resources, as well as plays chosen
because they sell well. We have even returned to Shakespeare, after
a gap of 33 years. On this point, I want to add that over the
thirty-six productions we have AVERAGED 91% business. Because we
now have electronic ticketing, that figure is verifiable, and it is
a figure that would astound most theatre companies.
We have succeeded in increasing the resources we have in terms
of especially Stage Management, LX, FX, Design, and Props. There is
still some way to go with Set-building and Wardrobe, but these too
We are more aware of, and more compliant with, our legal
responsibilities, particularly about young people working on
After some initial resistance, we finally managed to start a
Youth Theatre, which was very successful for some years. It has
been in abeyance this last year, for want of someone to organise
things. I am pleased to say that we are in discussion with someone
experienced in Youth Theatre work who I hope will take over. I
cannot over-emphasise the importance to the long-term future of the
Swan of having a thriving and active Youth Theatre.
We have more actors in the younger age groups in their 20s, 30s
and 40s. With the presence of youth members, this enables us to
cast people of a more realistic age in many parts, which for a
theatre like ours is very liberating.
The introduction of Production Assistants has greatly helped
with the organisation of productions, and I do hope this will
continue. Taking the burden of administration and communication
away from directors enables them to focus much better on the job
they should be doing which is actually directing.
Out rehearsal schedules are now much more able to allow other
uses of the theatre, and this means the theatre is used much more,
and is brought to a wider potential audience. This also, of course,
increases the possibility of fund-raising for the building
The thirty-six productions have used 20 directors, 12 of them
directing here for the first time. This, of course, brings a fresh
approach and new ideas to what we do, and the additional fact that
2 of them were young people only adds to those benefits,
And finally, my thanks to the Committee for the support and
encouragement over the last few years. And a special thank
you to all those who have worked on those 36 productions, on-stage,
back-stage, FOH and Marketing. Quite obviously, I couldn't have
achieved any of this without you. I have enjoyed my time as
Artistic Manager, and before that as Secretary, and I wish The Swan
Theatre every success in the future.'
c) Marketing (Claire Walford)
Swan Theatre AGM Marketing Report *** (read out by
Over the past year we have continued working hard to keep the
profile of the Swan Theatre high with a multi-layered approach to
marketing. This has been despite losing several marketing team
members, and an increased number of events to promote.
Our thanks to Sheila Driver for the production of adverts for
the local press, Pax Cook for the emailed adverts to our audience
database, Annetta Broughton for organising the collection and
distribution of posters and flyers, Beryl Snadden for her library
displays and Pauline Dagnall for the maintenance and development of
These continue to be produced to a very high standard and in a
The Newsletter continues to keep members & patrons up to
date. Thanks to Rachel Butcher, Lesley Nesbitt, Elaine Taylor,
Lynne Bennett, and Chrissie Mumford for producing these this
We have seen some striking artwork and design in our posters and
programmes this year. Our thanks to Sheila Driver, Pauline Dagnall,
Lesley Nesbitt, Rachel Butcher and Hannah Bottomley for their
invaluable contributions. Proofread expertly by Elaine Taylor and
These have included some beautiful and candid rehearsal
photography. Our thanks to Derek Marpole and Pauline Dagnall.
Key team roles
Charity Nights have run smoothly this year thanks to Denny
Robbins' excellent administration. The 2020 programme preparation
is already underway. Charity nights are a significant revenue
stream for the Swan, as well to introduce new audiences to the Swan
and ensure an enthusiastic opening night audience.
The Box Office continues to run like clockwork thanks to Ann
Rigby. She has been ably assisted by Lesley Nesbitt and Elaine
& Andy Taylor and our thanks to them for all their hard work.
Additional thanks to Andy for updating the foyer screens.
Thanks also to Elaine Taylor for continuing to manage all
aspects of membership so effectively, including frequent e-shots
keeping members up to date with the additional events and support
We have continued to see a gradual increase in the percentage of
sales at full price. This indicates a slight reduction in the
average age of our audiences. Occupancy this year overall was 88%
down slightly from 96% the previous year.
Additional external and 'new' events including Cinematheque have
seen our audience widen and footfall increase. This looks set to
continue with more guest bookings such as the Drum Clinic and
enquiries from touring groups.
What the Butler
100% tickets sold, full price,
And Then There Were
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Social Media and Online Presence
We have continued to develop our social media platforms,
building Instagram and twitter alongside Facebook. On all three
feeds you can find regular updates about events, ticket sales,
readings & auditions, club nights and news and photos of Swan
We will continue to drive to find more engaging and informative
content. Our next target is to develop the means to ensure that
regular updates are made from shows in progress from audition and
rehearsal through to performance.
We encourage people to come along to marketing meetings to
understand what we do as well as asking for volunteers with skills
to take things on.
We don't have enough volunteers in most areas. We are always
looking for people interested in sharing and/or shadowing any of
our roles for load lightening and future proofing. We need more
help in updating the website and raising our online profile. We
also always welcome new designers, newsletter compilers and offers
to distribute posters and flyers.
It is truly a team effort and I thank all involved.
d) Facilities & Social - to include a short
presentation by a member of the Steering Group on the development
of The Swan Theatre (James Kneller & Graham House)
Facilities Report - James Kneller
'In the previous 12 months there have been no major building
works, however as well as the routine maintenance we have made some
We continue to improve our technical system, partly to support
the new venture with Cinematheque but also to benefit our core
business. We have upgraded the sound system and have invested in a
new projector. We have also installed a new (5th)
lighting bar over the stage.
Alongside all that there is the steady drum beat of routine
maintenance, such as servicing of the boiler, the alarm systems,
the fire extinguishers and so on, and we recently had a good clear
out of the workshop. We have also had our 5 yearly Electrical
Inspection, which generated a few items for rectification but
otherwise clears us to carry on. Many people have helped me keep on
top of all this over the last year. I'd particularly like to thank
Geoff, Ken and Dick who continue to take the lead with much of this
on my behalf.
We also completed a Key Audit of the main key holders and for
the first time in a while changed some of the access codes. The
code-lock on the Stage Door remains the same. All members can know
this code to let themselves in. The alarm code is different and now
only known by key holders (only they can lock and unlock the
building anyway), and the bar safe has a different code, with all
float money now being kept in here.
A few words on tidiness and rubbish. Just a reminder that we
have no black wheelie bins - the council does not take our rubbish
away. Please consider that whenever you throw something in a bin,
someone else from the theatre has to empty that bin and take it
away. If we all took a little bit, then it would ease the burden.
It's important that we keep the theatre tidy for fire and safety
reasons. I'd also at this point like to thank Meg Longman who comes
down and cleans the kitchen and ensures that we are stocked up for
FoH supplies for the forthcoming play.
And lastly, energy and security; if you are locking up, please
check the heating in the kitchen is off or set to 'timer'. We have
installed a new switch for the boiler in the props room which
should be quite straight forward to use. Please check all the
lights are off, and please check you lock up properly.'
Dick Bennett added a reminder that we must ensure all fire doors
are shut properly when locking up the theatre. There have been a
few instances when fire doors were left not fully closed.
Social Report - James Kneller
'Not long ago we had our annual gathering at The Northover Manor
which was I think enjoyed by all. We also had a Summer BBQ last
year which went down well so we will do another this year on
Thursday 1st August.'
Report of Extension project group to Swan
Committee and to members at AGM - Graham House
'In June 2017 we were asked to look into the feasibility of
improving audience facilities in the theatre, essentially by way of
a bar extension. We spent some time clarifying the brief before
inviting three firms to bid for design work. Essentially the
primary requirement of the brief was to improve audience facilities
Orme Architects were appointed in January 2018, detailed survey
of building carried out, sketch schemes prepared for discussion.
Preferred scheme drawn up by summer 2018, as now displayed in
theatre foyer. Feedback from members, audience etc. not very
extensive but broadly positive in tone.
Overall costs at this stage estimated on simple floor space
basis in the order of £250k. Further discussions took place within
the group at this point as to whether the scheme was in fact the
most suitable, and some other options explored on a provisional
basis but not taken up with architect.
In order to gain clearer idea on actual costs, Slade Parry
Quantity Surveyors appointed in December 2018 to prepare cost plan:
this gave us a shock… total for Orme scheme came out at over £500k,
excluding VAT and professional fees. Major unexpected items
included cost of excavating bank and providing retaining walls,
plus costs for extending heating and other systems.
While SP's figure is essentially a "gold standard" estimate and
might well be trimmed back by "value engineering", we felt this was
too much for Swan to raise, and have been looking into a scheme
which follows the principles of the Orme design but simplifies it
in ways which will reduce costs, preferably to less than £200k.
This work is still in progress with a view to preparing revised
drawings for further costing purposes and a planning
Meanwhile, all feedback and comments on the project will be
John Curry said some people were concerned these building works
would alter the character of the auditorium.
- Graham House confirmed this wouldn't be the case and people
needn't worry as the main agenda of these plans is to extend the
parts of the building that need more space, e.g. the bar area and
the sound/light room, and not alter the look of the auditorium.
Peter Riley asked if any approaches had been made to
obtaining external funding sources.
- Graham House answered no, they had not, as we need to have
confirmed plans and quotes for the works first before external
funding can be sought.
e) Chairman's Report (Geoff Kneller,
'The Swan is in a very strong place both financially and
artistically. We have had some very successful productions and some
very thought provoking ones. Which brings me to my first round of
thanks tonight, to all those members both cast and crew, directors,
set designers and constructors and the technicians, who regularly
bring drama to life in our theatre of dreams. These people are the
life blood of what we do.
My second round must go to my Committee who regularly thrash out
all that needs to be done to keep The Swan running. Tonight we lose
3 people from that Committee; Ian White, Pauline Dagnall and Roger
Mumford. I thank each and every one of them for their hard work,
dedication and support during their office, along with Eva, Jean,
Graham, James and Claire.
Of course there are many others who work in the background to
maintain the running of The Swan; Meg Longman, Elaine and Andy
Taylor, Dianne Law, Julie Wallace, Annetta Broughton, Ann Rigby,
Denny Robbins, Andrew Middleton, the Marketing team and the
Production team, the Monday Club to name but a few, thank you
There is of course the elephant in the room; that's right, FRONT
OF HOUSE. This remains to be a challenge, and will be greater if we
try to offer more variety at the theatre. I am looking to pass this
task on so if anyone has the will to tackle this please speak to me
New developments have proved very popular, Cinematheque
continues to bring new people into The Swan some of whom I have
seen at our productions, and we are looking at alternative ways to
utilise the equipment we now possess.
Fundraising will be a big part of our lives for the next 2-3
years; however we hope to be in a position to start next year! We
have the additional bonus of once again having our own in-house
Architect, which should make the planning both easier and will be
easier on the finances. More to follow on this.
We sadly have lost a few people from our family over the last
year, Iris Jenkins, Wally Cottrell and Connie Snelling. If I have
missed any please forgive me but let us just have a moment to
remember those who are no longer with us.
Finally, The Committee has it within their remit to award
lifetime membership to those who have given great service to The
Swan over the years! We have not done so for a while. So this year
we have awarded two - John Curry and Julie Wallace. We hope you
agree that the Wallace's and John have provided some outstanding
acting & support and still help where they can today.
A round of applause please for Julie and John.
Thank you all for attending tonight.'
4. Elections (Roger Chadbourne, Returning
Roger reminded all that the three officer posts must be
- Chairman - Geoff Kneller - willing to continue in
this role, unopposed - RETURNED
- Treasurer - Jean Kneller - willing to continue in
this role, unopposed - RETURNED
- Secretary - Eva Balonova - willing to continue in
this role, unopposed - RETURNED
The other three vacancies were Artistic Manager and two Ordinary
- Artistic Manager - 1 nomination received,
unopposed - Mark Payne - ELECTED
- Ordinary Member - 3 nominations received - Brian
Williams, Annetta Broughton and Robert Graydon
- Roger announced the results of the vote which were in favour of
Annetta and Robert - ELECTED
The Annual General Meeting
was closed at 20:08
6. Open Forum
James Kneller shared with all present the exciting new venture
we are looking into, NT Live (National Theatre Live). He confirmed
we now have a projector but would have to invest around £2,000 into
a satellite dish that is also required. However, the revenue from
ticket sales alone would cover this cost within a first few
The main challenges we would be faced with are marketing and
scheduling. Some Swan productions would lose a day at the theatre
because of this; there is an encore option available but there are
limitations around how many times it can be used. And the other
obvious challenge, which we always come back to, is Front of
Mark Payne asked how many FOH members would be required - James
said a minimum of five.
Roger Chadbourne asked if we would be able to choose which plays
to screen - James answered no; there is a set schedule and we would
have to screen the plays available.
Annetta suggested including the NT Live information in the
Robert Graydon and Mark Payne said we are very lucky at The Swan
with just how much we are able to use the facilities for rehearsals
and other activities and perhaps take this for granted sometimes;
losing a day during production rehearsals shouldn't be too much of
an issue at all.
Mark also stated that considering the current building plans and
the need to raise the required funds, we should go ahead with the
NT Live as it's a guaranteed revenue source.
James ended this topic by thanking all for their points and
confirming the new Committee would take all these thoughts on board
and provide an update when there is one.
Roger Mumford raised that some members couldn't attend this
meeting due to rehearsals and suggested this should be taken into
consideration when scheduling in next year's AGM - Geoff Kneller
said it is always challenging to find one day that 'fits all' but
will certainly try next time.
John Curry asked how many members the Swan now had -
Elaine answered there are 188 members (as opposed to 300 we had a
few years ago).
The open forum was closed at