Annual General Meeting

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Minutes of The Swan Theatre Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Wednesday, 24th April 2019

Meeting started at 19:35

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 Balonova, Secretary)

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 area!
  • The Swan extension project costs are shown as £6,677 in the year

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 life). 

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 standing.

- 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 Manager)

'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 have increased.

We are more aware of, and more compliant with, our legal responsibilities, particularly about young people working on productions.

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 project.

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 Elaine Taylor)

Profile

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 our website.

Marketing Materials

These continue to be produced to a very high standard and in a timely fashion.

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 year.

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 Chrissie Mumford.

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 required.

Ticket Sales

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 Saw                       655         29%        100%     tickets sold, full price, occupancy

Plaza Suite                                          593         20%        91%

The Tempest                                     572         32%        73%

And Then There Were None        786         33%        100%

Veronica's Room                              634         28%        81%

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf   576         37%        73%

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 activities.

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.

Team membership

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 improvements.

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 and circulation.

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 submission.

Meanwhile, all feedback and comments on the project will be welcome.'

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, Chairman)

'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 all.

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 later.

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 Officer)

Roger reminded all that the three officer posts must be re-elected yearly.

  • 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 Member posts.

  • 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 screenings.

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 House.

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 newsletters.

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 20:50