Vince leaves theatre at solid stage

Vince Hope with the photo-montage presented to him on his last day at Alnwick Playhouse.
Vince Hope with the photo-montage presented to him on his last day at Alnwick Playhouse.

A FORMER theatre manager has spoken of his pride after helping to revive the fortunes of a community theatre.

Vince Hope, who left his role at the Alnwick Playhouse last Friday, said he was grateful for the support he had received during a ‘wonderful’ four-year stint at the Bondgate Without facility.

Having started on a temporary contract in 2007 – before being appointed on a permanent position a short while later – Vince inherited a Playhouse which Trustees have admitted was ‘in some difficulties’.

But during his time at the helm, the arts centre witnessed growth, including a 45 per cent increase in annual turnover as well as a 30 per cent increase in both the annual footfall to events and exhibitions and in the volume of annual ticket sales. He has credited his “hard-working, supportive and loyal staff as being key to the success we have had over the four years”.

But he also admitted that his efforts to broaden the Playhouse’s programme, to re-connect with the community and tackle its bleak financial situation were also crucial to restoring the venue’s fortunes.

“I grasped the ethos of the Playhouse and tried to keep it that way,” he said. “It has been a wonderful centre for the last 20 years but in the last four years, I tried to make it more commercially viable because that was the necessary thing to do. I set out to connect with the community. I realised that relations between the Playhouse and the public had, for whatever reason, become distant. I don’t think the programme was connecting with people and I think they lost confidence.

“I felt we had to reach out on a more commercial level and try to bring different audiences in and explore different avenues.

“The staff and myself did everything to try to reach out and connect and make the Playhouse feel like it was their second home.

“That has been my philosophy since I came here and that has been the way until the end.”

Under Vince’s watch, and with the help of his staff, in particular financial controller Karen Hirst, the venue’s financial fortunes improved dramatically – something which Vince said was his particular highlight. He admits that funding cuts by the Arts Council will make the next few years tough but is confident that arts centre manager Joanne Potts – who took over at the helm on Monday – can continue to steer the Playhouse ship in the right direction.

“The next few years will be a struggle for the next manager in the context of a dramatic cut in funding from the Arts Council and we need to make up that shortfall somehow. That will be the main challenge over the next few years. I wish Joanne the greatest of success here. I think she will be good for the Playhouse and I am sure that it will go from strength to strength.”

Last Thursday, Vince was presented with a leaving present and his work as theatre manager has been praised by the Playhouse Trustees.

Roy Todd, chairman of the Trustees, said the improved financial situation under Vince’s watch ‘has ensured stability in the face of a difficult economic climate’ and that the wide-range of programmes which ‘appealed to audiences’ was ‘a necessary step in the circumstances’.

He said: “The Trustees of Alnwick Playhouse would like to express their appreciation and thank Vince for the work he has done over the last four years.

“Vince leaves the Playhouse in a stronger position than he found it in 2007 and although the Arts Council cut in funding is a disappointment, the Playhouse will absorb the loss and survive thanks to Vince’s contribution over the last four years.”

“The Trustees wish him well in his future appointments.”