Here’s how Worthing Theatres & Museum trust was impacted by pandemic

The Worthing Theatres & Museum trust managed to hold 144 socially distanced events during 2020/21 despite the crippling impact of the pandemic.

Worthing's Pavilion Theatre
Worthing's Pavilion Theatre

The independent charitable trust – which was formed five months before Covid hit – includes the Connaught Theatre, studio and cinema, the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing Assembly Hall and the Museum and Art Gallery.

A report on its first full year of operation was presented to a meeting of Adur and Worthing councils’ joint strategic committee on Tuesday (July 13).

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It showed that despite the closures, 8,150 people attended a ticketed event at one of the venues and 31,369 logged on to digital events and exhibitions.

Martin Randall, director for the economy, told the meeting that, despite it having been ‘a hugely demanding year’, there had been some ‘terrific achievements’.

During lock-down, those achievements included Worthing Creates – a scheme set up in conjunction with local artists and creatives to provide people with projects to work on at home – a series of museum exhibitions, and weekly links to online performances by the National Theatre and Sadlers.

As expected, the trust’s income for the year fell well short of what had been predicted pre-pandemic – £128,000 rather than £3.5million.

On top of that, 25 members of staff lost their jobs and the rest were furloughed at some point during the year.

Despite all this, the trust’s performance during 2020/21 was described as ‘remarkable’ in a report from officers.

In line with government guidance, the borough council made a contract payment to the trust of £1.46million to ensure it could continue to operate.

One change has been made to the current financial arrangement.

According to its contract, the trust was entitled to keep the first £350,000 of any profits, placing them in a risk reserve to help maintain financial stability in the longer term.

At the end of the contract, half of that reserve would be returned to the council.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, the trust asked to increase the amount it could keep to £750,000 of profits.

A report to the committee said that, given that 50 per cent would still be returned to the council, the director of the economy had agreed to this change to the contract.

Leader Daniel Humphreys heaped praise on the achievements of the trust.

He said: “What can you say after the last 12 months when venues the length and breadth of the country have been closed for the majority of it?

“But when they could open they did open, with social distancing in place.

“I really take my hat off to what the theatres do all year round. It’s really important to see them come open and thrive again.

“The future of our town centre I think is dependent on a thriving future for our live venues.”