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!