16th Mar 2021

It is almost a year to the day that we closed our doors to the public following government instruction to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What a year that has been! I never really knew the work of trustees until the months following the day it was announced we must close our doors. But before I go into some of that, I need to pay public thanks to our team, and more particularly those who we had to say goodbye to in 2020.

I cannot begin to stress how hard it is to accept as a small charitable organisation that you have no choice but to undertake a redundancy process. Being on the receiving end of that is difficult enough, but knowing the impact it will have on people and their families is not something I ever expected to have to do for such unforeseen reasons. I want to thank our team for their understanding and do wish them well for the future. It has been hard on every one of us.

In September last year we recognised that without additional funding the Carnegie Theatre Trust would fold by December. We simply would not have enough money to keep us going. Trustees worked late into the night on numerous days to complete an application to the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund, and fortunately for us we were successful. I think we all gave a sigh of relief that day. That money enabled us to keep going operating until March 2021. We have since put in a second application to the Cultural Recovery Fund to cover our operating costs from now through to June 2021, when, fingers crossed we can start to switch the lights on and see live performance live once more. We know though, that audiences will not flock to the theatre when we reopen. That will take time and as such we’re acutely aware that we will need to continuously source funding to keep us going until we all feel safe enough to sit in a theatre.

Throughout all of this it has been heartening to see the public support for the Carnegie. We’ve seen people contribute significant sums of money to help see us through, and you know what, it really has helped. Thank you. I need to be honest though. Public support for the Carnegie has to continue beyond the pandemic. Without regular funding the Carnegie will not be able to continue. Our single source of funding from Allerdale Borough Council has dropped significantly. We have of course, highlighted the risk to both Allerdale, who continue to work with us and we are very grateful to them for doing so and have met with a number of councillors from Workington Town Council.

Alongside ‘keeping the lights on’, we’ve also obtained funding to start off a much needed piece of work to develop our long term strategy. Regardless of the risks it was important we kept going with this. We’ve got the first stage of a fundraising strategy completed and are seeking further funding to create an audience development strategy amongst other things. All in all this is about reimagining the Carnegie. Understanding what people want and what the building needs to be. We know there is an exciting future for the Carnegie, if we can only get there.

You’ll also notice from our social media that we’ve continued to work on our beautiful Grade II Listed Building. Our new house lights have been installed with thanks to EON Robin Rigg for funding those and we’ve been able to restore the windows throughout the building and make a number of essential upgrades as a result of the Arts Council Funding.

Our work goes on. Right now we’re working behind the scenes on a reopening plan, maintenance on the building continues because we’re really proud to have this building and want it to stand the test of time and we’re working on our longer term plans in the hope we can get there.

Final word – support us. The Carnegie is something West Cumbria and most importantly the residents of Workington should be rightfully proud of. It doesn’t just have to be a financial donation. If you can offer skills we may need then get in touch – we’re always looking for volunteers and desperately need new trustees.

I look forward to seeing the very awesome staff and volunteers #TeamCarnegie welcoming you again through those doors very soon. You have no idea what a wonderful day that will be for us all.

Lee Martin-White

Chairman – Carnegie Theatre Trust