Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre is moving from private ownership to being operated by a registered charity, as the organisation seeks to secure its future.
Founders William Whelton and Joseph Houston said the move would allow the theatre to unlock more funding opportunities, supporting its ambitions to grow its workforce and make the venue more accessible.
The new charity that will run the theatre is called A Factory of Creativity, with Whelton and Houston answering to a board of eight people. Whelton and Houston will continue as executive director and artistic director respectively.
The pair said they “struggled to keep up with the expectations and sheer demand of operating such a large endeavour”.
“It has become increasingly hard to support the level of work that we produce in-house as well as supporting a thriving arts community locally,” they added.
Houston told The Stage that previous bids for funding had been turned down because of the company being run as a ‘for profit’ company, with the theatre’s local council stating it was unable to support it financially for this reason.
“We thought it was a shame that our business model was the only thing stopping them,” he added.
Whelton said becoming a charity meant the theatre would unlock funding not previously available to it, and added: “Without more of an income from grants and fundraising avenues, we could not develop any further, as myself and Joe are the only people liable for the company.”
He said funding would help make the venue more accessible, through initiatives such as a hearing loop and signed performances.
“There are lots of things we want to be able to do. We want more people to be able to enjoy the theatre on this small scale here,” he added.
Houston said that both he and Whelton still worked the venue’s bar and cleaned its toilets.
“Will and I have put our blood, sweat and tears into this venue but it’s not sustainable from our point of view. The last thing we wanted was to reach a point where we don’t enjoy it any more,” he said.
He added: “Our venue has been successful in terms of its productions, but with regards to our engagement with the region and with new audiences, it’s still a struggle. We need to be getting out there more, and we need more staff to support a busy programme of work.”
The move to being operated by a charity comes as the venue announces new patrons, including Russell T Davies and Denise Welch. They join existing patron Tracie Bennett.