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Curtain Up: Light the Lights

Curtain Up: Light the LightsCabinet's agenda for last Wednesday had a couple of items relating to Lowther Gardens. They prompted the feeling that we were looking at the tip of an iceberg - and perhaps an overture to something discordant.

The bigger concern of the two was an exempt item taken behind closed doors, and headed-up simply as "Lowther Pavilion"  which (intentionally) tells you nothing.

The less such items say, the more trouble there is likely to be if the public was told what was in them, and that heading tells us nothing.

But buried in another part of the Cabinet Agenda, in the gloriously named 'Medium Term Financial Strategy' - which is really a sort of loose-leaf rolling budget in which you can continuously change the figures (to make it look as though you were right with the budgeting all along) - was this little gem

"xx) Lowther Gardens Trust
Further to the Cabinet meeting of 28th June 2011, a 30k subsidy has been agreed for award to the trustees of Lowther Gardens Trust (subject to conditions). There is currently no budgetary provision approval for any further subsidy above the 30k already agreed and negotiations continue with the Trustees in relation to reaching a subsidy settlement, which may be higher than the approved budget provision. As some of the conditions specified in the cabinet report remain unsatisfied there remains a risk that the proposed transfer of responsibility to the Trustees will be delayed"


And in-between those lines you can read that there's trouble backstage.

The report makes it sound as though the Trustees are not able to manage with a 30,000 a year subsidy to operate the Pavilion (We heard they were looking for around 50,000 - and we don't even think that's enough). And it also looks as though the Council are not yet satisfied that the Trustees have complied with conditions they imposed in their meeting of 28 June.

But again, we don't know what the report to the Cabinet of 28 June said - because that meeting was held in secret as well!

Dear God! This is a Charitable Trust about a Public Garden and Pavilion, all funded - or at least subsidised - by our taxes. These Cabinet meetings not 'life and death' top secret military intelligence briefings. The secrecy culture that pervades Fylde in the name of 'commercial confidentiality' is quite breathtaking and disgraceful.

Talk about openness and transparency being in short supply.....

But at least readers *can* at least look at the minutes of the June meeting for crumbs of what was discussed.

We did: and they say:

"Clare Platt (Director of Community Services) provided Cabinet with an updated report on proposals to transfer the management and day-to-day operational responsibility of the Pavilion from the Council to the trustees of Lowther Gardens Trust.

In summary, the report set out the background to the Trust, details of its twelve-month business plan, and the financial management arrangements proposed.

In reaching its decision, Cabinet considered the details set out in the report before it and at the meeting and RESOLVED:

1. To approve a virement of 30,000 subsidy (which is included in the 2011/12 service change cost budget) and award it to the trustees towards the management and day- today operational costs of Lowther Pavilion.

2. To continue to negotiate with the Trustees regarding the remaining gap of subsidy requested.

3. To request that the Trustees submit a long term (3 to 5 years) business plan, as timetabled in Appendix B of the report.

4. To inform the Trustees that the 30K subsidy is conditional upon:

The new Theatre Manager being in post by 1 September 2011

The appointment of a new trustee, by 1st September 2011, with an accountancy or similar professional background demonstrating financial skills, knowledge and experience

Negotiation of an initial Service Level Agreement to include a specified minimum number of days/weeks when local community/amateur groups can hire the Pavilion for practice/performance."

And just for our readers, we can reveal what was on the secret Cabinet Agenda last week.

There was a  business plan and artistic proposals from the Trust which sought a total of 222,000 subsidy over the next five years, reducing from 51,400 next year, to 31,600 in five years time.

Cabinet was being recommended to accept this 'offer' (although  we think the people doing the recommending it don't at all understand where this would take (and leave) them in six years time.)

The Cabinet's own view of Lowther is shown by it's own forward planning - where next year it envisaged a subsidy of 30,000 to the Pavilion, reducing to 20,000 the year after, and 10,000 the year after that.

This is plain madness. It shows the Cabinet have no care at all to preserve great benefits brought by the amateur dramatic groups in south Fylde, and it's lining up Lowther Pavilion for a repeat performance of the Great Swimming Pools Debacle.

That story goes: Can't make it 'pay'. Close it. Public outcry. Sack the Leader. Promise to open it again. Waste a shedload of money fixing the problems caused by abandonment. Go through an artificial 'tendering' process and still get it wrong. Open it again, accepting that you can't make it pay. What a waste!

We're going to say this in big letters so the Councillors involved can understand it clearly.

LIKE THE SWIMMING POOL, LOWTHER PAVILION WILL NEVER 'PAY ITS WAY'. IF YOU'RE NOT PREPARED TO SUPPORT IT AS YOU HAVE DONE YEAR ON YEAR IN THE PAST, THEN SAY SO OPENLY, AND WE CAN VOTE PEOPLE IN WHO WILL.

The Cabinet meeting was also being recommended to delegate power to the Leader and Portfolio Holder to approve the final terms of the Service Level Agreement.

OMG! as they say today. We wonder if there has been as much or more consultation with users of the Pavilion and Gardens about this Service Level Agreement as there was with the users of Melton Grove.

As the Scrutiny report has showed, that consultation was - in the words of their chairman -"Absolutely Nil"  We suspect consultation on this has been about the same.

"But" as Jimmy Cricket would say "There's more"

And it's a bigger issue altogether that's running underneath all the detail.

It's a fundamental question about what Lowther Gardens and Lowther Pavilion are *for*

Back in October 2005 in our article 'Lowther is Charity Case' we broke news of the Charitable status that had to be applied to the Gardens.

The land had always been a charitable gift of course, (since it was given by the Clifton Family in 1905), but the Council's officers had either never recognised, or had forgotten, that this was the case, and the former Commissar developed plans to rebuild the Pavilion as a grandiose Civic Suite with meeting facilities, a banqueting suite, and so on.

Thankfully, he was reminded of the charitable status of Lowther Gardens by the Lytham St Annes Civic Society who do so much good work in the town.

And on the 29th November 2006 the Trust was formally registered with the Charities Commission, and all of the land and buildings and contents were transferred to the Lowther Gardens Lytham Trust. The net value of these assets as at transfer date was 1,566594.

That status did make some changes to the way Lowther operated.

It means any money raised by and within that trust has to be spent for the benefit of that Trust - as set out in the Trust documents. It also means the management must focus exclusively on the objects of the Trust.

As we understand it, there is only one Charitable Trust in respect of "Lowther"

It is Charity Registration number: 1117054 and it's name is "LOWTHER GARDENS, LYTHAM TRUST"

It's not just the Lowther Pavilion. The trust covers the whole of Lowther Gardens. (In fact, the original document gifting the land casts doubt on whether the Pavilion should have been built at all ! - but that's a completely different story)

After the charitable status was confirmed, many small-minded and petulant members of the Council said they would "wash their hands of Lowther."

We chided them at the time, saying that previous councils have deemed both Lowther Gardens and the Pavilion to be necessary and a 'good thing' going back for decades, and they are no less necessary or important today simply because the Council will be delivering them via a charitable trust in future.

In short, the need for the service had not diminished because the method of delivering it had.

We said it was historically right to use taxpayers money to subsidise the operating costs of both the pavilion and the gardens, and it remains the right thing to do in the future if that's what local people want.

But FBC have now managed to turn the transfer to Charitable Status into a muddle, which, in our view, needs unravelling.... and we're going to try to do that.

We'll start at the beginning.

Before 2005, the Council viewed Lowther Gardens as it viewed Ashton Gardens and Fairhaven Gardens. They were public facilities that were held to be important enough for local people to fund them collectively. They were a public service.

Within Lowther Gardens were a number of community recreation facilities, bowls, tennis, play areas, Lowther Pavilion, and so on.

The Pavilion was seen by councillors in those days as a 'hall to be hired'.

It was occasionally hired by commercial undertakings for craft fairs and the like, (to generate commercial-scale income to help offset costs), but chiefly the hirers were subsidised local groups - and in particular the amateur dramatic clubs which Fylde had in abundance. You needed to book months or sometimes even years in advance to get the slot you wanted for your am-dram production.

The Council's provision of a subsidised hall for local groups in Lowther Gardens did exactly what it was supposed to do.

It encouraged a thriving community to participate in civic life, and that same local input of amateur groups brought in an even bigger audience of friends and relatives to see them perform.

That's not to say everything was perfect.

It wasn't.

Working on a subsidised basis, there was never enough cash to keep up to date with the latest technological lighting and sound kit, and, to be honest one or two of the theatrical types involved could a bit, well, theatrical and volatile, and thus sometimes relationships became a bit 'prickly'.

So whilst it was not always the most harmonious and sparkling public service FBC ran, for the most part it did what it was supposed to do.

And overall, the council's objective of providing community facilities and supporting social cohesion was being met by the bucketload.

From time to time, people from outside, who didn't understand Fylde, would try to effect a change in policy.

We recall hearing about a particularly virulent attack made out of the public gaze by an 'Arts Officer' from another local authority who was visiting. They thought it was bordering on criminal that Lowther Pavilion should be wasted on amateurs, and the Council should have ejected them in favour of what was then (and may still be) termed 'Professional Product'. They said the Council should not subsidise its community, it should subsidise professional artists like other places did. They all but spat when they said the word "amateur"

We later formed the view that such arrogance was not a-typical in the world that calls itself professional art.

Fylde disregarded these advances, and continued to be the place that people loved and came back to *exactly because* it ploughed its own furrow, and had not become 'like other places'

As we said earlier, when the charitable status of the gardens was first established, the Council threw its dummy out of the pram in a fit of pique. However, when things calmed down, they decided to become the Trustee of the new trust.

That, of course, was the least change they could make from what had previously been the case.

But in the awful world of Cabinets and Portfolio Holders, they delegated the trusteeship to the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture (At the time that was Cllr Simon Renwick). He became (literally) the voice of the Council as "The Lowther Gardens" Trust. He spoke with the authority of all Councillors without even having to put such views to debate in full council meetings.

This was an awful move - because it vested control in the hands of one person, and that's rarely a good thing. (And just for clarity at this point, that's not a comment on former Cllr Renwick, it's a comment about the awful Cabinet and Portfolio-Holder system)

Then, (although it was probably not evident from the outside the Council), there was pressure from the Charity Commission to change this single trustee arrangement.

The Commission generally don't like even full councils being trustees, because such trustees are apt to mix up their role as landowner, (where their focus is the good of all Fylde residents) with the role of the trustees (who should focus exclusively on the objects of the trust - which may not be the whole of Fylde).

Fylde were eventually persuaded to create an independent board of trustees for Lowther.

As well as a representative of their own (Cllr Susan Fazackerley) they have appointed Tim Lince, Dan Creasey, Philip Hargreaves, and Barry Scott as Trustees. Tim Lince acts as Chairman.

There is now a big debate going on about whether, when, and under what conditions, the Council should withdraw altogether from its role as a trustee.

That's what was on the agenda at the last Cabinet, and they've got themselves into a mess in our opinion.

The way they went about setting up the trust seems - well, to us at least - to have been something a disaster (though we understand and accept others may not share our view of the process).

This does feel very much like another of those situations where the Council saw it as an opportunity to reduce its involvement and cut its spending by ducking out of what most people would have said was its natural responsibility.

Anyone detect shades of Melton Grove in this approach?

Firstly, they have - at least to themselves, and probably more widely - allowed the Pavilion to *appear* as a separate entity to that of the Gardens (when it is not, and cannot be, because it is part of and within one trust.).

It's probably because of this perception, that the Trustees they have appointed for the Lowther Gardens Trust appear to focus exclusively the Pavilion (except when they are using the gardens for theatrical productions, that is), and they have appointed, in particular, a trustee (who now chairs the Trustees), who will undoubtedly make many changes (and probably cause a lot of turbulence).

He's a chap with a lot of professional theatre background and, undoubtedly, a wealth of commercial experience.

So you can see why he would be appealing to a Council that was looking to reduce it's own involvement.

He's also the founding Director of 'Pendle Productions' and continues to run that as a media business today.

As he himself says of it "Over the last 22 years we have branched out into Video, film and Audio Recording Services. Using the latest Hard Disc Recording Equipment we can provide you with Promotional Films, Adverts, and Drama. The Recording Department uses all professional staff drawn from the BBC and Independent Companies."

He is the chap behind the staging of his own Pendle Production company's 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Christmas Pantomime at Lowther Pavilion this year.

Again, in his own words he says: "Following last years smash hit 'Cinderella', Pendle Productions once again join forces with The Lowther Pavilion Theatre to bring you the spectacular musical pantomime that will launch this years Christmas season into the stars and back again "Jack & the Beanstalk".

What is less clear, is that for his Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime to take place, Pear Tree Productions panto 'Aladdin' was turfed out of the slot they had booked, paid for, and had accepted last December in readiness for what would have been this December's fundraiser panto.

We would have been a bit more troublesome if someone had tried to break such a contract with us, but the Pear Tree group seem to have accepted that it was not in the interests of the Trustees to let them do their pantomime this year.

That's a shame, because we know of old that Pear Tree used their activity to raise funds for the very well respected Pear Tree Special School at Kirkham, and now we understand they have widened their scope to raise money for special needs children more generally.

But sadly, they won't be raising it from their panto this year (unless they did it at a different time so it didn't conflict with Jack and the Beanstalk!)

This sort of thing - being a trustee, and giving preference to you own commercial productions - (and especially by forcing out people who had already booked a pantomime!), is just the sort of thing that will give rise to claims that a conflict of interest exists. It is a situation likely to bring the Trust itself into disrepute, and potentially to bring trouble for individual Trustees with the Charity Commission.

The Chairman of the Trustees has also produced an 'Artistic Policy' for Lowther Pavilion and is now vetting the scripts and artistic proposals of the performances that local amateur productions want to stage. [Yes, really].

It's not clear from its wording whether the Artistic Policy has been agreed by the other Trustees and/or by the Council (who have yet to hand over total control to trustees), but it begins -

"Written by Tim Lince, On behalf of the Trustees of Lowther Pavilion. 31st March 2011

Mission Statement
Lowther Pavilion and Gardens Trust aim to enrich the entire community of the Fylde (both local and the wider region) through the arts (performance, visual and written form) providing an affordable programme of innovative, challenging and enjoyable events, activities and projects in a stimulating and accessible environment."


Readers can follow this link to see a full copy of the policy

Whilst the policy says many of the things you might expect, the overriding impression is about theatre. The gardens are envisaged merely another performance space

The Policy's opening line, which starts "Lowther Pavilion and Gardens Trust" is incorrect.

The Trust's name is "Lowther Gardens, Lytham"

You'd have expected the Chairman of the Trust to know that.

Its objects are "To promote for the benefit of the inhabitants of Lytham and the surrounding area the provision of facilities for recreation or other leisure time occupation of Individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disablement, financial hardship or social and economic circumstances or for the public at large in the interests of social welfare and with the object of improving the condition of life of the said inhabitants."

It seems to us there's a lot in those trust details about social welfare and suchlike, and not so much about opportunities for commercial theatre businesses.

And by the time you get to the end of the 'Artistic Policy', the gardens have been dropped altogether as it says "In conclusion the Lowther Pavilion Trust will provide...."

Wrong again.

As we said, the name of the trust is "Lowther Gardens, Lytham" and if the Trustees were better equipped in number and range, they would have a wider view.

They'd also be more likely to have some amongst their number who would have insisted on the right name being used in official documents, and a broader direction being followed. (Well they would if they'd seen the Policy Document of course)

We absolutely can't understand how the Council's Trustee (Cllr Fazackerley) didn't say something, and how she let something so obvious slip past her.

We'd prefer to see a much more widely drawn set of Trustees - and that's not to denigrate those who volunteered.

There is nothing to stop for example, the Civic Society, or the Lancashire Gardens Trust, or any one of a number of local community organisations being asked if they would provide a trustees to effect a wider balance.

We think there should also be automatic 'user trustees' from all those with an actual stake in the gardens, including the bowlers, and the cafe and some from the 'friends' groups and some from the am-dram groups.

This is especially so if the Council envisages transferring complete control of things like the cafe and the bowlers to the trust (which is likely).

The trust is about running the whole of the gardens, not just a part of them. So all parts of the Gardens need to be represented on the trust.

Not to widen the trustee-base brings the risk of what now looks to be happening - the reduction of the trustees to a narrow or single focus, and ever-creeping, commercialism that has only passing relevance to the stated object of the Trust.

As evidence for this direction, readers need only refer to a recent Gazette report saying that local am-dram groups were worried about being priced out of using Lowther. From what some of the groups have told us, there is enough justification for that fear - even if the yet-to-be-finalised 'Service Level Agreement' apportions time slots for them.

We hear tell of increases of 25 to 40% for amateur groups next year, along with user-contracts that amateur groups say are not suitable for them.

For further evidence, we can reveal that over several weeks now, we've been told by readers known to us (who periodically take 'their turn' at being 'on duty' at Lowther during some of the am-dram productions - doing front of house stuff and that sort of thing), that they're fed up with the creeping demands being made of them.

It seems they're now being asked to come in to do cleaning and polishing of the theatre and suchlike.

Their answer to that is 'No way, Jose'

That approach is going to lose the support of the am-dram groups and their supporters by the shedload. It will help kill off the amateur scene in Fylde.

The am-dram users of the theatre already have to pay for the technical support staff costs (of what will become the Trust employees after December 1st when they transfer under the TUPE regulations to become employees of the Trust) to work the lights and sound and so on. Furthermore, we understand the traditional source of income for am-dram groups to offset their production costs (i.e. the bar takings) is already being sequestered by the Trust itself, and we're picking up gossip about the Trust wanting to bring in other catering suppliers - and maybe even opening the pavilion as a sort of pub, with the bar open all day. We're also picking up stories about a capital scheme for huge extension to the theatre and requests for even more cash from Fylde to fund that.

Now, if that's the sort of thing the Council and the people of Fylde want to happen at Lowther, they can just sit back and smile.

If it's not, then both sets of people need to do something about it before the Council completes the transfer of power to the present Trustees.

We come back to our fundamental question "What's the purpose of Lowther Pavilion?"

If it's to be a theatre business and professional entertainment venue, then with the present direction and enough enthusiasm, it might just succeed and generate some cash to help offset the cost of the gardens. We think that's unlikely but it is just possible.

But if it fails (and we think the risk of failure is at the higher end of the scale) it would involve failure from a completely different league of spending, and that would be hugely expensive for taxpayers if the trust becomes insolvent and the Council has to step in as the funder of last resort to keep the facility in existence for local people (unless in such circumstances, the Council decided to abandon the Pavilion altogether)

If Lowther Pavilion is to be what it has been in the past - a subsidised venue for local groups - the risks are lower, but there will be no significant savings to be made on what it was costing to run, and it is this situation which gives rise to the view held by some, that the theatre would close within 12 months unless it pursues a commercial income generating policy - because the Council will not be prepared to pay the subsidy needed to run it as a public service as it has done in the past.

Once again, the Council finds it has put itself between another rock and yet another hard place. But again, it is a situation of its own making.

You can smell their desire to offload the costs of Lowther Pavilion (and gardens if they can) onto whoever might be willing to bear them. In the present Trustees, they might have found people who will try.

But with the best will in the world, the financial situation isn't rosy. We've had a look at the accounts for the last few years.

The trust was first valued on the 29th November 2006, when the net value was put at 1,566,594 (that's all the land and buildings and contents), and that was the value that transferred to the Lowther Gardens Lytham Trust.

You can see a copy of the formally published accounts on the Charity Commission website - but we've extracted the essence of them and, a bit like Eric Morecambe said to Andre Previn, "they're all the right figures, but not necessarily in the right order" - we've reshaped them a bit to make reading easier. You can follow this link to our single page pdf file showing a year on year comparison.

In summary this is what has happened financially:

At first, the Council did not include the costs of grounds maintenance for the gardens in the trust accounts.

Almost certainly (and to us, unbelievably), this was because FBC were not able to separate out the costs of Lowther from all the other grounds maintenance they did, so they couldn't charge it to the trust with any semblance of accuracy.

So in the first year of trust operation (2007), the accounts showed generated income of 387k and expenditure of 424K.

To cover the shortfall, it needed a contribution of 37k from FBC

The following year, generated income had gone up to 414k, but total expenditure had gone up even higher to 525k.

It's not completely clear why this had happened, but the bigger cost increases were on staff costs (up 6.4%) and more especially the shows and bars costs which were up 21%. Though to be fair income from box office and bar sales was up 14% as well.

This of course is partly the risk you take with staging your own productions (as opposed to hiring out a hall). If the performance is not a success, taxpayers foot the bill via an increased subsidy.

It's also part of the reason that councils with more sense than the most recent ones saw it as a hall to be hired. They - sensibly in our view - didn't see themselves as would-be impresarios risking taxpayers cash on the viability of shows.

Perhaps most notable in the accounts for this year was a new 'expenditure' item called 'Depreciation' at 35k. We don't think this 'real money'. We think it's the sleight of hand used by accountants to confuse mere mortals.

The accounts also record an unresolved deficit for the year of 37k. (which more or less equates to the depreciation charged, so ignoring that 37k, the council had to increase its subsidy to 73k to cover the shortfall in income for the year).

The following year, costs were trimmed back to 480k, but the income was down to 392k which needed a council subsidy of 53k (again ignoring the depreciation which is quietly mounting up as a theoretical 'loss' figure year on year)

In the most recent year for which accounts are available, the costs appear to have shot up. Generated income was up a bit at 399k but the expenditure was vastly increased at 674k.

This is because the Council had by this time, managed to split its grounds maintenance charges (in preparation for the Great Tax Con) and they now knew how much Lowther Gardens was costing (around 100k).

The 'Donated Income' from the Council was increased in these same accounts to reflect the Council putting a much-increased sum of 240k in to the trust cover both the pavilion and the grounds maintenance costs.

Sadly, the Council has also done its usual trick of adding in 'support costs' of 43k for the first time this year.

This is what the Council says it needs as a contribution by Lowther Trust toward the costs of running the Council itself.

We'd have to see more details to be sure, but it will likely be an apportioned cost of the planning departments and the admin department and so on.

We think this is a pretty disgraceful move, and the overheads of running the Council should be removed from the Trust accounts altogether.

If you strip out the grounds maintenance and support costs that have been added in this year, we estimate the subsidy needed from the Council (on the same basis as previous years) for this year would have been around 80k

This is probably why the trustees are saying they can't manage with a subsidy of 30k a year, and they need something more like 50k or 60k.

The average subsidy needed since the trust began is about 70k a year so far as the Pavilion is concerned.

As a comparison, we looked back in the Council's accounts to 2006/07 when Lowther Pavilion was a Council Cost Centre in its own right (CC 3010). The Council budget of that time showed a net subsidy of 97k was being spent on Lowther Pavilion.

So at present, we have a muddle. We have a Council that does not appear committed to anything except reducing what it spends - seemingly irrespective of the effect on public services.  We have a trustee base that is far too narrow and does not even appear to understand what the role of the trust is, and we have the local amateur groups that are being frozen and priced out of their 'home'

So whilst the Council may have found a commercially minded entrepreneurial impresario with a handful of supportive trustees following in his wake, they have also created a situation that will destroy the sense of community that traditionally, Lowther Pavilion has been there to foster.

As Melton Grove was turned from social housing into an asset for stripping and disposal, it's possible that Lowther Pavilion can also be turned into a commercial venture but, like Melton Grove, if it happens, that's going to be at the cost of the people who use it;  it's not what it was intended for and, we suspect, it's not want local people want.

The Cabinet - still smarting from the scandal of Melton Grove - has done the sensible thing this time, and put matters on hold for a time by referring the matter to a Scrutiny Committee.

We can only hope that the culture of secrecy does not prevail there, and the meetings are held in public with contributions positively invited from the public and from interested parties.

We'd go as far as to suggest co-opting one or two of the am-dram group members onto the Scrutiny committee (but that's probably still a bit too revolutionary for Fylde).

This is not the end of a story, it's the beginning of the conversation that needs to be had about what Lowther is for - and we expect to bring you more as that story unfolds.

Dated:   23 November 2011

UPDATE: 25 November 2011
This is the (not altogether unexpected) response to our article reproduced verbatim.

Contrary to the suggestion in the penultimate paragraph, we will not be 'submitting *our* script' for vetting ("discuss any items to make sure they are accurate"). Our readers already know that cb does not purport to be a balanced article, it is but one opinion amongst many. As to accuracy, we leave that for our readers to determine.......


I would like to correct some of the items contained in you article.

1. I am only Acting Chair. And this was following Peter Taylor's resignation one of the Trustees needed to take the helm to chair meetings.

2. Whilst there is some truth in the figures you have published the Article is very one sided and does not represent the work that the trustees have done in trying to unscramble the muddle with Council Finances.

3. Any contract with my Company to perform pantomime at the Lowther Pavilion was set in motion and agreed with the Council a long time before the Trust positions were advertised.

4. You have misrepresented my Company and the work it does. We run two strands. One of which is an educational Arts Company that includes in it's portfolio a youth Theatre that has been co funded by myself personally and another Local Authority for the last 26 years. So I'm afraid I am hardly the evil face of commercial theatre. In fact most of my work has involved setting up Young Peoples Companies and supporting their development in the arts. Over the last 12 months my work has included writing and Directing a Heritage Lottery funded project called "If these Bricks could Talk" about the 100 year history of a theatre that was performed by over 100 local amateurs to the theatre and a Project in some of the poorest schools in the country in Kirby Liverpool working on a project called telling tales where we were working developing children's writing and storytelling capabilities. If you had taken a few minutes to look through the work we do you would have seen that the Company does produce pantomime but this is a very small percentage of the work we do.

5. With regard to the Pantomime this was not a commercial contract. We were asked by council employees to look at whether a professional pantomime could be run at the theatre and it was only accepted by my company on the proviso that we could have an enormous children's chorus that enabled the greatest number of children the opportunity of performing along side professional actors which we have done and maintain this year.

6. No attempt has been made to speak with the Trust and therefore no validity can be put on your perceived ideas of trust actions. If someone had telephone me or another Trustee I would have been happy to show you the papers and reports so that you can see what we are having to deal with.

7. The comment about requiring Scripts to be provided to the Management of the theatre is accurate as with most Theatres scripts are lodged with the theatre manager who has these a number of weeks before a performance takes place. This is to make sure that there are no breaches of Copyright and that all material produced on stage is how it is advertised. It also helps with PRS payments and is standard practice. It would not be for me to read these scripts but for the theatre manager who must decide on the suitability of material and who's copyrights are involved. In fact recently there have been posters produced that are a clear infringement of Disney Copyright and the Manager at the Lowther has advised the society that this is unacceptable. This is not big brother but good housekeeping.

Certainly if you wish to ask any other questions I am happy to answer for the time period that I am Acting chair. In future please could you make sure you discuss any items to make sure they are accurate as I'm afraid you may have wasted the opportunity to really get to the heart of the matter. Which is..... Is there going to be a facility to be proud of in two years time? .

Please feel free to publish this along with your article.



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