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Newsletter- March 2005


We reported. in the last Newsletter how BBC Cabinet had agreed only '20 occasions' a year for the hiring of the auditorium of St. Mary in the Castle. This prevented the headlines of 'mothballing’ or 'closure', but 20 bookings hardly satisfies the demand. The decision was debated at the full Council meeting on 10 February but the only concession was that it might be 'about 20'.
As the aim of SMIC-F is to keep St. Mary's alive as a flourishing performing arts centre, and following the success of our series of Jazz. Breakfasts, SMIC-F applied to hold 33 events within the next year. The allocation for SMIC?17 received during our Committee meeting on March 11th is just SIX EVENTS up to March 31st 2006.
Over 50 applications were made to the Council, on a form on which you first had to pass a 'cultural test' that your event involved local people, part of the Hastings cultural calendar and benefiting the community, etc. Just 25 events have been allowed. In the case of SMIC?F alone, this means the Council are refusing £5,000 in potential hire fees.
The logic explained at the Cabinet meeting was that 'every booking costs the Council money'. But surely the more bookings, the less subsidy would be required. There is a precedent for this as the agreement with ClearChannel means that every event at the White Rock Theatre is subsidised by council tax payers by over £500 ? and this on an iron?clad eleven year agreement with an international company. Do all their events pass the 'cultural test'?
In this Newsletter we publish the budget for St. Mary's produced at the Council meeting. You will see that this raises a lot of questions, so SMIC-F are arranging a PUBLIC MEETING and CONSULTATION when Council officers will be invited to explain their budget and why bookings are being restricted. This will be held at BURTON ST, LEONARDS MEETING ROOM, 36 Marina, St. Leonards on Sea on MONDAY 4th APRIL at 7.30p.m. Please come along. The Council have asked for any ideas to support St. Mary's, and we hope to come up with a plan when the actual financial figures are known.
SMIC?F will also be asking advice of the Lottery Commission, who granted over £1 million for the restoration, if this limited use of the auditorium is within the best interest of the Grant. This was given on the understanding it would be used as a music venue and not as an historical attraction.

Presented at the Council meeting in answer to a question by Leon Tuppen: "The proposed budget to specifically address providing St Mary in the Castle as a hall for hire is £17,400 for 2005/6. In addition Cabinet agreed to providing historic tours of the building, continuation of the gallery and introducing an arts information point. This is estimated at a cost of £22,600. The combined total cost of £40,000 will be considered as a growth item in the Council's proposed budget for 2005/6, alongside the base budget of £74,180, giving a total budget of £114,180 ……..allocated as follows:

Volunteers support
Repairs and RenewalsAnnual Maintenance,
Annual Maintenance
Licence inspections and fees



=== =====
Hire Income/Donations 3,200 £114,180

The questions we would like to ask Council officers are:
Why does volunteers support cost £3,500?
Why is the Council charging itself £11,000 in Rates?
What demand is there for an Information Point hidden in the Crypt when two fully staffed Information Centres are within half a mile either direction?
Why do SOCO have the use of the gallery rent free when this is a valuable commercial space (FOSMIC had an offer of £1,000 p.m. for cafe space alone).
Why is there no income from offices rented to Rhythmix and HBC in No. 7?

Applied for by SMIC-F over the next twelve months:
12 Cafe Tempo's
12 Jazz Breakfasts
Three events in Hastings Week
A special St. Mary's Festival Weekend on September 10 – 11
6 events over two days!
Plus a number of other events involving theatre schools and local artists. From these we are allowed to choose just six which is very difficult., but surely the Festhal Weekend is a must plus the Hastings Week events which leaves a Jazz breakfast every four months. More details in the next Newsletter.

A peak year for St. Mary in the Castle was 2001 when records show 238 events with 78,864 paying customers to events. Including patrons to the cafe and art exhibitions the total must be nearer 100,000 visitors. 67% of these were from Hastings and Rother area. There were 13 world premieres of new and commissioned works and six programmes created at St. Mary's went on to have London performances, Local businesses used the building 18 times for conferences and other functions
(commercial hires not allowed in the new criteria).
Income for 2001 totalled £77,526 plus £112,412 grant income and fundraising. Expenditure on maintenance and upkeep of the building totalled £53,531.
There were a number of prestigious events including several operas costing £6,000 to stage and several orchestral performances which always need a subsidy.
Volunteers contributed 38,000 hours in running the building which would have cost £228,000 if paid staff!

The address for St Mary in the Castle Friends is:SMIC-F Office:
Unit 9, St.Andrews Mews (upstairs) open Saturdays 10 - 4
Hastings Town Centre, enquiries 01424 442601

The views expressed here are those of the St Mary in the Castle Friends (SMIC-F) and not necessarily those of the proprietors or webmaster of


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