Progress Report – April 2021

The community of Stone is pulling together in a huge effort to deliver a brand-new theatre and community space in the town. Crown Wharf Theatre trustee Leo Capernaros gives us the latest news…

In January 2019 we were granted charitable status by the Charities Commission and a new charity, creatively named ‘The Crown Wharf Theatre’, was born. A lot has happened since then, including of course the pandemic, and whilst this has had an impact on the project, it has only made us more determined to realise the dream of bringing this fantastic new facility to the town, in our opinion it’s more vital than ever.

The charity is solely made up of local volunteers, each of whom around busy day-jobs and family lives are working flat out to make the most of this rare and fantastic chance to bring a theatre and community space to Stone.

The way the project has presented itself is unusual. In the beginning we were making tentative enquiries and imagined perhaps a ten-year journey of raising the money, making plans and then eventually developing a theatre (somewhere in Stone). But with the massive leg-up from Joule’s Brewery, our journey has been moving very quickly and in some ways is slightly back to front.

On the 1st April 2021 we signed the lease and got the keys to the shell of the theatre building, and the responsibility is now ours to raise the funding, complete the internal fit-out and then run the building for the benefit of as many people as possible. Whilst we can’t thank our lucky stars enough for the wonderful and wholehearted support from Joule’s Brewery, it has meant we have been playing catch-up from day one. It’s a little like building the plane whilst you’re flying along!

Firstly, we had to get charitable status, a drawn-out process with an extremely busy Charities Commission. We had to set our charitable purposes, governance, bank accounts, insurances, tax and accounting procedures, all the nuts-and-bolts stuff which ensure we’re properly run. At the same time, we had to quickly raise funds in order to commission specialist theatre architects who have worked with Joule’s during the design and build process to ensure the building shell is fit for purpose.

We have also had to consult with a range of theatre experts and quantity surveyors to capture the full scope of the internal fit-out, from heating and ventilation, to floor coverings, acoustics, comfy seating and the multitude of different types of cable required to be embedded into the walls of a functioning theatre.

While all this has been going on, we have had to think about the future. To give major funders the confidence and to make sure the theatre will be self-sustaining in the long-term we have had to research and build a fully costed and viable business plan. We continue to talk with potential user groups, ensuring we develop a formula that keeps the building accessible, affordable and occupied as much as possible.

Covid-19 has of course slowed things down, quite rightly all of our priorities shifted whilst we dealt with this painful and wide-reaching disaster. The pandemic led to the pausing of many grant schemes and put a stop to all the big fundraising events we had planned for last year.

The total fundraising target is £750,000 (gulp!), which would deliver a high-end fully finished auditorium with lots of bells and whistles. Given everything that has happened, we are now taking a phased approach and looking to raise a proportion of that figure which would provide us with enough equipment and finishes to make the space usable.

From there we can start to use the theatre, have some fun and continue to fundraise and develop the building over time.
Continuing to raise money is of course a primary objective, and if you want to help out there are all sorts of ways to donate:
– You can visit our JustGiving page (https://www.justgiving.com/crownwharftheatre)
– Hold your own fundraising event on our behalf
– Name a seat
– Become a ‘Founding Partner’ be that as an individual, family or if you own a business.

(Email info@crownwharftheatre.org.uk to enquire)

But it’s not just about cold hard cash, we have had some incredible help from volunteers, helping us in all sorts of ways, be that volunteering at our community events, helping us with websites, communications, accounting and technical expertise. It’s been brilliant to feel the community getting behind the project, and now we are full steam ahead with bid writing and planning some exciting events for 2021 it would be great to hear from you! If you feel like you have something to bring to the party please do get in touch.

We are also on the lookout for support from local contractors, tradespeople and suppliers offering expertise, labour and materials, all of which will help reduce the overall cost of the project. We will recognise any business that wants to support the project on a permanent ‘Founding Partners Wall’, so do get in touch if you think you could help out and be part of this incredible ‘legacy project’.

So where are we today? Now we have got the keys it’s time to press on. We are ready to begin fitting out the back of house areas such as the changing rooms, toilets and green room straight away, so there are lots of opportunities coming up for tradespeople, nifty DIYers and anyone who can hold a paintbrush to get stuck in. The auditorium fit out still requires more secured funding, but by hook or by crook we will make it happen. There’s a mountain of work to do, but step by step we will get there, together.

You can find out more about this hugely exciting project – and get involved – on this very website. Please feel free to have a click around!

We’ve got the keys!

It’s full steam ahead as we take on the theatre building

Our exciting plans to deliver a brand-new theatre in Stone have taken a major step forward.

We’ve signed the lease to take on the building from Joule’s Brewery – and work will very soon be getting under way on the backstage areas.

The outer shell of the theatre has been built by Joule’s as a donation to the community – it’s part of their Crown Wharf development which features a flagship brewery tap that will be opening its doors later this year.

Representatives from Crown Wharf Theatre Charity Trustees Mandy Gauge, Jill Hood, Rob Kenney, Leo Capernaros & Harri Capernaros alongside representatives from Joules Brewery

We signed the lease to take on the theatre building on 1 April, and we’ll pay just a pound a year in perpetuity. It’s now down to us  to transform a shell into a fully equipped and professional performance and events space, with an internal fit-out of the auditorium, back of house and workshop areas estimated to cost around £750,000.

We’re taking a phased approach and looking to raise a proportion of the total figure initially to provide enough equipment and finishes to make the space usable. From there, the theatre can start to be used while fundraising continues to further develop the building over time.

Fundraising has been under way for 12 months through a sponsor-a-seat scheme and events like the recent YouTube live streaming of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now the lease has been signed, fundraising efforts will be ramped up, and we’re looking to raise money through funding bids, corporate sponsors, private donations and general fundraising.

Work to start on the back of house – can you help?

Work will be starting soon on the back-of-house areas, which will include dressing rooms and green room facilities alongside an on-site workshop, and the charity would like to hear from local contractors, tradespeople and suppliers who can offer expertise, labour and materials to help reduce the overall cost of the back-of-house work. Businesses will also have the opportunity to become Founding Partners and be recognised permanently inside the theatre on the ‘Founding Partners Wall’.

When fully completed, Crown Wharf Theatre will seat over 200 people in an octagonal auditorium, with all the seats moveable to create the flexibility for a huge range of events, filling a longstanding gap in Stone’s cultural and social landscape.

Full steam ahead!

Craig Chesters, Crown Wharf Theatre trustee, said: “We are so grateful to Joule’s for their help in getting the project to this stage. Right from the start, they’ve shared our vision for what a new theatre can bring to Stone, and their support shows just how committed they are to our town.

“We’ve had some incredible help from volunteers, and it’s been brilliant to feel the community getting behind the project. Now we’ve signed the lease and are full steam ahead with bid writing and planning some exciting events for 2021, we’d love to hear from people and businesses who want to get involved to make Crown Wharf Theatre a reality.”

‘We’re thrilled the charity has signed the lease’

Phillipa Machin, Joule’s Brewery marketing manager, added: “More than ever, we were eager to be involved in the community whilst building our Stone Taphouse, the most important project in the Joule’s history which sees the brands return to our historic hometown. What better way to be involved in the community than through the sponsorship of a community theatre, as well as a heritage centre?

“As we get ever closer to finishing the taphouse and can see the theatre bar evolve, we’re excited to work alongside the charity to create a fantastic offer. I know I can’t wait to be sitting in the theatre amongst friends with a pint of Joule’s in hand watching a fantastic local production, enjoying a film or even an album launch. So of course we’re absolutely thrilled that the Crown Wharf Theatre charity have signed the lease and we’re looking forward to seeing the building come to life very soon as they begin works on site. Watch this space for an exciting array of events coming soon.”

If you would like to volunteer, you can Contact Us…