Thursday, 24 January, 2013

"We have being doing business in the local community for many years and thought it was time to give something back to our community."

This simple statement by the Director of Gross & Co, a firm of solicitors in Bury St Edmunds, goes to the heart of philanthropy.

The Director went on to say "And supporting the Arts is a very good way of doing just that."

Congratulations to Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for securing such a generous-spirited sponsor for its forthcoming season.

How does 'giving something back to the local community' translate in reality?

22,000 people saw Bury's recent panto - in other words 95% of the theatre was full during the performances.

In our intimate Tardis-like Tara Theatre, which seats just 50 people (at the moment), over 2,000 people saw our last panto which was completely sold-out. The audience ranged from children to working adults to pensioners. They were welcomed by our front-of-house manager, served drinks, ice-creams and chocolates by volunteer ushers who also took them to their seats. They were then entertained by 6 actors and 3 musicians cracking jokes scripted by our writer and singing songs written by our lyricist. The performers were beautifully lit by our lighting designer, spectacularly clothed by our costume designer, given a world to weave their magic on by our set designer and kept on their toes by our stage managers.

These were just a few of the people who helped make our panto such a success. And this, in human terms, is the translation of 'giving something back to the community': jobs, consumption, training and enchantment combine to leave people with a smile in their hearts as they step out of the theatre and back into their localities... which, as with many local areas around the country, is under the grim shadow of recession.

Each year, over 10,000 people visit our small theatre in south London. The economic impact alone of their visits generates just over £100,000 for our local economy. Imagine what the impact is on Bury St Edmund's economy by their theatre, which has a capacity at least six times larger than Tara's... And of all the other theatres in the country put together. In times of recession - as in war - the choice is not between the Arts and Jobs but Hope and Despair. 

Giving a little achieves a lot.

The philanthropic impulse is the life-blood of the Arts. And it comes in many guises. There is cash, of course. An equally valuable contribution is made by arts workers - the volunteers, administrative, technical and backstage staff & the artists. If it were possible to account for their working hours in the manner of lawyers, accountants, plumbers & consultants, it would be immediately apparent how philanthropic we are!

I wonder whether such 'in kind' contributions would make a case for partnership funding & so leverage more support from the Treasury?

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