City theatre trust bosses hail a dramatic turnaround in finances

Duncan Hendry: eliminating deficit allows trust to plan for the future
Duncan Hendry: eliminating deficit allows trust to plan for the future
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THE trust which runs two of the Capital’s biggest theatres has posted a surplus in its annual accounts – a year after a quarter of its workforce was sacked to slash its debts.

Festival City Theatres Trust, which runs the Festival and King’s theatres, made a 
profit of £250,000 in the last financial year.

The trust, which is partly funded by the council, made 11 employees redundant in March 2011 – a move which saved £320,000 a year.

The cuts came after auditors warned there were serious doubts about the ability of the trust to “continue as a going concern” due to its crippling £765,551 deficit.

The city council also had to step in and provide a £400,000 bailout – in the form of advance funding – in February 2011. An immediate scaling back of the trust’s programme was also implemented.

In a finance summary published in the trust’s 2011/12 annual review, chairman Chris Masters said: “This is a remarkable turnaround compared with the previous year.

“As a result of the economic climate, the atrocious winter weather and disappointing ticket sales for our ambitious co-productions, we were forced to implement a significant programme of cost reductions and business restructuring which resulted in almost a quarter of our full-time employees leaving the trust.

“The fact that this was successfully accomplished without any external disruption is a great credit to both our people and to the understanding and financial support of our major external funder, the City of Edinburgh Council.”

Councillor Norma Austin Hart, vice-convener of the city’s culture and leisure department, said: “It is encouraging to see that the trust’s finances are beginning to recover after what has been a very difficult phase.”

Trust chief executive Duncan Hendry, who joined from Aberdeen Performing Arts in April following the resignation of previous chief executive John Stalker in June 2011, now hopes that by continuing on the current trajectory, and generating a similar operating surplus for the next two-and-a-half years, the trust will eventually eliminate the deficit.

He said: “The decisive action taken by the trust in the spring of 2011 has meant that the organisation is now on a much more sustainable footing and has allowed the organisation to make a surplus of £250,000 in the 2011/12 financial year. We can now plan for the future with some confidence.”

The cash will help fund building work on a new rehearsal room and 160-seat studio space at the Festival Theatre, due for completion in summer 2014. At the King’s in Tollcross, the first phase of a restoration project has already been carried out, including renovation to the fabric of the building, improved disabled access, a brand new box office, new carpeting and improved seating.

The theatre is on target to reopen for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.