The long term affordability of taxpayer funding for the Lichfield Garrick “must be considered” according to a Lichfield District Council report.

The Lichfield Garrick

An overview and scrutiny committee meeting will hear recommendations that a strategic partnership agreement replaces the current concessionary services agreement which expires on 31st March.

Introduced in 2019, the agreement allowed the Lichfield Garrick Theatre to recover VAT in a bid to improve their financial position.

But report by Cllr Richard Cox, cabinet member for leisure, parks and waste management at Lichfield District Council said the change would be a chance to “restate the outputs sought from the Garrick theatre”.

The local authority’s current financial commitment to the venue stands at £250,000 a year.

Cllr Richard Cox

“Although substantially less that the initial grant of £663,200 in 2012, this remains a significant cost for a discretionary service.

“Recent benchmarking indicated that Lichfield District Council’s culture and heritage spend – principally the Garrick theatre grant – was 23% higher than the average of Lichfield’s statistical neighbours.

“The budget consultation exercise conducted between October and December 2020 ranked the Garrick as one of only two areas where the majority of residents were in favour of reduced spending.

“The longer term affordability of the grant must be considered alongside the longer term management arrangements.”

Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council

The local authority’s financial plan has already budgeted for funding to the Garrick to gradually drop from £250,000 a year to £75,000 by 2025.

Cllr Cox’s report said the move would save £290,000 by that point – but added that the final yearly figure would likely remain in place until the lease for the venue with the Lichfield Garrick Trust expires in January 2029.

After this date, the council would be able to either extend the lease or seek a new operator for the venue entirely.

“The £75,000 figure is considered the steady-state funding level for the trust to secure ongoing theatre operations.

“This funding profile reflects the trust’s aspiration to continue to meet more of their operating costs from income generation.

“This increased income generation has already seen the trust’s reliance on Lichfield District Council funding drop by more than £400,000 per year since it was established.

“It is also worth noting that the £300,000 commitment over the period from 2025 to 2029 is considerably less than the £1,000,000 that would be required if the current funding level was retained.”

Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council
Lichfield Garrick

The coronavirus crisis has seen the curtain remain down at the Lichfield Garrick for much of the past year.

In August 2020, chief executive Karen Foster said she had been forced to make “very difficult and painful decisions” in order to ensure the theatre could survive the pandemic.

But there was some financial hope when a £280,000 Government grant was awarded to the city venue to help it survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Cox said uncertainty remained for smaller venues.

“Benchmarking with the Theatre’s Trust – the national advisory public body for theatres – has indicated that theatres of the size of Lichfield Garrick are unlikely to be able to operate without some local authority subsidy.

“Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the performing arts industry.

“Required to close in both the first and second national lockdowns, most theatres have effectively not traded since early March 2020.

“Without a clear exit path from Covid-19 restrictions, theatres and performing arts venues are struggling to assemble programmes for 2021.”

Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council

The report will be heard at the meeting on Thursday (1st April).

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. In my opinion the Garrick should not receive a single penny of local council funds. If this venue can not be maintained as a stand alone commercial business then that is the fault / problem of its over inflated and well paid management team.

  2. Why does the garrick theatre run conferences and lectures and have a deal with local hotels, that would bring in money, especially when they are not doing plays or concerts, the council should promote this as an extention to the festivals that are held in the city/area..

  3. If it can’t financially maintain itself ,close it ,use it to fund arts projects for all, not thoes who can afford it ,I’ve been several times and find it overpriced with its inadequate offerings ,preferring the civic in Wolverhampton or the hippodrome for a true theatre experience.
    I support the Lichfield youth theatre on a regular basis ,the shows they put on are infinatly better then the lacklustre efforts produced by the Garrick
    I’m sure it’s namesake would find it an embarrassment .

  4. Funding for the Garrick Theatre has always been a thorn in the side of LDC. Yes the theatre should be largely self sufficient – BUT – it is a community resource. It serves a large number of people as a theatre to visit. Local amateur groups have somewhere to perform. The theatre also runs/supports community choirs and in house youth/theatre groups. I am afraid that I see the Garrick in the same light as I see a sports centre, which LDC put money in to as it is a community resource.
    Ah – I hear you say – but a theatre is just for the arty elite! Well I pay my taxes and never set foot in to one of our local leisure centres….but I still think they should exist for the good of others in the district.
    Theatres and the arts have taken a very low place in the thoughts of everyone in charge of money in the last 12 months – and that’s at a professional level. At an amateur level theatre and even more so music (particularly amateur orchestras, choirs and bands) have taken a real hit. Millions of people normally take part in amateur drama/choirs/orchestras/musical theatre groups and these activities have stopped. LDC should think about this aspect of the life of its constituents as it decides on the level of funding The Garrick should receive.

  5. Pam Easto, this isn’t just about LDC funding the Garrick, it’s about what the Garrick gives back for the money it gets back. A number of am dram groups who were fixtures had vanished from the bill at the venue since it pushed for the old VAT reclaim agreement. If you read the report in full you’ll see that this is essentially LDC going back and asking the Garrick Trust to remember what the theatre is there for. New KPIs say as much. The management have made changes that have taken the venue away from the groups who it was meant to serve and replaced it with these self congratulatory community musicals. This might have been fine and self-sufficient had they been managing a venue capable of attracting the big shows rather than Yeates stars of yesteryear on rotate, but the Garrick was never big enough for that. It needed to be a community hub with those am dram and semi-pro groups providing the backbone of the schedule around which touring shows would appear, but the management had grander (and more unrealistic) ideas.

  6. LDC should seriously review putting finance into the Garrick bearing in mind
    1 Cinemas & Music Clubs do not receive council funding in fact no external funding but The Garrick does. Most of the Garrick programming is 1 night tribute Bands, no Plays, Ballet, Opera, etc in fact a badly balanced programme in last 3/4 years
    2 The Am Drams & Musical Societies generally cannot afford The Garrick so have gone [doing well] elsewhere.
    Our Garrick patronage has reduced greatly in last 3/4 years, as what is programmed without 1 night tribute bands is frankly, pitiful – compared to what is on elsewhere, so we travel out of Lichfield to see what we used to see in Lichfield.
    Freedom Leisure already manage Stafford + a few more large & smaller theatres down south. The people who run Theatre in Crewe also have good track record. They both have the proven financial experience, the contacts, the abilities to run Theatres, etc to bring back a more audience attractive programme to Lichfield at a reasonable cost to patrons therby reducing the annual financial sub arguments from LDC from council tax payers, to what is now almost purely a music venue promoting 1 night tribute bands

  7. When those ‘self congratulatory’ community musicals are no longer there to provide opportunities for local youngsters to get involved in doing something positive with their time, I dare say T H Espian and GFI will be whinging about local youngsters hanging around and getting up to no good.

  8. T H Espian you are perfectly right that somehow the offering of The Garrick needs to be better, and access for local groups needs to be maintained (I do hear something of the problems for local groups in regard to pricing and dates offered) LDC do need to address what the Garrick is for – originally replacing both the Arts Centre and Civic Hall – and both need to liaise better with the community. This may be thime for a major re-think!

Leave a comment
Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy before posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *