Jersey Opera House dark again
Jersey Opera House’s board of directors has announced that the theatre has closed indefinitely, less than five years after it reopened following a £7.2 million refurbishment.
After crisis talks with the States of Jersey’s Education, Sport and Culture Committee failed to find a solution to the venue’s funding problems, the directors took the decision to cease trading until further notice from February 14 and announced an accumulated deficit of £271,000.
In a letter explaining the board’s decision, chairman Christopher Lakeman wrote: “The company has taken advice. It has today ceased trading until further notice. It hopes this will be a temporary measure.”
He also warned: “We cannot trade while insolvent – we cannot trade when this is a risk. Even if the theatre closes and remains dark, the loan repayments of £572,000 will be payable from October, 2005.”
Earlier this month the board wrote to ESC indicating that the its annual grant needed to be increased from £412,000 to £550,000 in order to continue operating. However, it was informed by committee president Senator Mike Vibert that there was no more cash available. He instead suggested that the theatre could be run on a hire only basis for one year in order to cut overheads.
In response, the board’s financial controller Truusje Gamlin wrote: “I am very disappointed that you do not accept my analysis of the current financial position the JOH finds itself in, or my recommendation regarding the minimum annual grant required going forward.
“You have left me no option but to advise the directors to close the doors of the JOH tomorrow [February 14] and to cease trading. The company has reached the point of insolvency.”
The decision comes only two months after the new board came to office, after the previous directors had resigned en masse amid fears that they would be liable for any further losses incurred by the theatre. At the time, outgoing chairman Derek Maltwood warned that the venue’s future was under threat.
He said: “Without more money, there are going to be periods of darkness. If one wants live theatre on the island, one has to provide adequate funds. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Christopher Lakeman has now indicated that the current board will seek additional funding direct from Jersey’s central treasury, bypassing the ESC in the process.
Speaking to The Stage, he said: “Jersey Arts Trust, on our behalf, will be contacting the Jersey treasury in relation to the funding crisis and setting out what we see is necessary and why it is necessary to find out whether any extra grants can be obtained centrally. We hope to hear back in the next 72 hours or so.”