Bury St Edmunds: New trust is on the cards to jointly run two entertainment venues
A TRUST may be set up to jointly run the Apex music and entertainment venue and the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.
Following a joint review, a proposal is being investigated to set up a trust to run the venues through a single management team.
The trust would retain the unique identity of both venues, provide a coherent cultural offer to residents and visitors, and make significant efficiency savings through a single management team, shared box office and marketing.
The results of the review have been the basis of discussion between St Edmundsbury Borough Council - which owns the Apex - and the board of trustees of the Theatre Royal, which agreed the proposal to share management in principle on July 9.
St Edmundsbury’s cabinet will consider the proposal at its meeting next Wednesday.
If approved, work on the detailed business plan will take place over the summer and form the basis of a final decision which will be made in the autumn.
Suffolk County Council and Arts Council England are major investors in the Theatre Royal and are closely involved with the development of these plans.
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A spokeswoman for the borough council said the move would create the capacity in one organisation to develop work with young people, training opportunities, the Bury Festival, and opportunities to work with other partners in west Suffolk.
Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for culture and sport at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “The vision for the Apex was to provide a first class venue for residents and to attract visitors to the town.
“We are very pleased with how it has established itself in its first two years and this review argues that shared management with the Theatre Royal would bring a focus to the cultural offer in Bury St Edmunds at the same time as enhancing the special character of two unique buildings.
“There is a great deal of work to be done but this trust would position Bury St Edmunds at the forefront of cultural provision in this region and we are delighted that the board of the Theatre Royal share our aspirations for arts in this area.”
The borough council spokeswoman said the cultural life of Bury had a direct influence on the town’s quality of life with the combined investment in the Theatre Royal and the Apex generating �10million for the local economy.
Brian Stewart OBE, chairman of the board of trustees of the Theatre Royal, said: “We want to raise the positioning and profile of the Theatre Royal, both artistically and commercially, and changing our business model and working more closely with the Apex makes sense on so many fronts, at a time when funding for the arts is limited.
“Bury is extremely fortunate to have a fine historic theatre, and an excellent new music and entertainment venue, and this new partnership will mean an even better arts offer for local residents and visitors, and Bury punching above its weight locally, regionally and nationally.
“The existing Apex and Theatre Royal brands will be maintained, but with closer working and realising efficiency gains we can improve the quality of what we can offer, and invest in better box office services, catering, other facilities, technical, and sales and marketing support.”
Helen Lax, regional director for the Arts Council England, said: “Arts Council England looks forward to receiving the formal proposal for this new venture, which will look to consolidate the artistic offer currently provided by the Theatre Royal and the Apex.
“This approach has the potential to strengthen the arts and cultural provision for residents in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding areas, as well as provide an exciting platform through which new, emerging and established artistic talent can build partnerships and showcase work.
“Our work with St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council shows us that working in collaboration can lead to new ideas, and for us, great art for everyone.”
Councillor Judy Terry, cabinet member for economic development at Suffolk County Council, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to work so closely with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Arts Council and Theatre Royal on this review.
“We want to ensure that we get the best arts and entertainment at great value for money. We will continue to play a significant role in this partnership.”