10th Apr 2020

A little over a month ago trustees were meeting to make plans on how to deal with our annual reduction in funding from Allerdale Borough Council. In 2020 we needed to find an additional £15,000 minimum – “fundraising” we all said. Then COVID-19 came along and dug us an even bigger hole by closing our beloved theatre and café down. Can we scrap 2020 and start again?

Since that meeting the world changed for us all because first and foremost, we have to stay at home to protect the awesome NHS to save lives.  #teamcarnegie battled to keep everything together. First, we stopped the theatre shows, then we removed seating from the café, then we closed completely. Our staff ‘furloughed’ waiting for those brighter days which will come if we all heed the advice.

On a positive note we’ve moved to an utterly modern way of working – cloud-based systems and video calls. We’ve all seized the modern age by using SharePoint, Teams and Go-To Meetings. I think we’ve all learned the modern technology we installed in the Carnegie back in 2015 has its uses and hopefully we’ll all continue using those long after COVID-19 has gone.

What next? Our challenge always has been getting the public to understand the Carnegie is a registered charity. We’re continually blighted by Facebook comments about us “being too expensive” … but bottom line is try hiring any other theatre and you’ll find we’re cheap as chips in comparison. What we do has to make us money to survive. It’s as simple as that. Without grant funding, donations and ticket and sundry sales (not just one of these but all of them) we may as well close the doors and hand the keys back to Allerdale Borough Council. But we cannot and will not do that.

I’m always astounded by the armchair experts. They’re the ones that critique our every move. But open our arms and ask them to come and join us they suddenly shut down Facebook and pretend they never wrote anything. We love them.

A small fact may help here. For an average ticket we sell the Carnegie takes approximately 30% of that. Therefore, for a £20 ticket we take £6. The remainder goes to the artist and promoter. From that £6 we have to pay our staff and pay the bills. So sundry sales, grants and fundraising is the only way we will survive. There is no money tree.

What help do we need? The last few weeks we’ve all been amazed by the support shown by many of you including those user groups who are affectionately known as the #carnegiefamily. They’re the reason we do what we do. But we need more people to understand our plight. I’ll say it again – without all of grant funding, donations and ticket and sundry sales we may as well close the doors.

In the first week of our closure we refunded approximately £10,000. That’s a direct loss for the Carnegie of about £3,000 because the other £7,000 is promoter/artist income. On top of the £15,000 we’ve lost this year that means we’re looking for an awful lot more money through 2020 just to make ends meet.

So, if you already support us – whether that be donating your ticket fees, giving us a donation or just being there for us. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are amazing and we will be forever grateful. Your support means the absolute world to us.

If, now you understand that the Carnegie is a charity and doesn’t just get a regular pouring of money from the council you want to know how you can support us further, consider a regular donation or even a one-off donation. It all helps.

Finally, help us change the perception. We have a small dedicated staff team and a board of trustees and an even bigger volunteer team. The latter two groups take nothing for doing what they do. They give their time freely and without them we could not do what we do. To get us back up and running and help with our future plans we need more support. Not just monetary but also hands on deck. Help us ensure the Carnegie does have a future.

Finally, I want to personally thank #teamcarnegie and the #carnegiefamily for every bit of support shown over the past few weeks. There are times when it has become very overwhelming.

Whatever you are doing this weekend – stay at home to protect the awesome NHS to save lives and we want to see as many of you as possible when we can fling open those beautiful red doors on that bloody awesome building, we all love so much. A building that gives so much to so many people.

Lee Martin-White, Chairman, Carnegie Theatre Trust (Workington)
Lee Martin-White, Chairman,
Carnegie Theatre Trust