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The Garrison Theatre Stakeholders group are looking for interested parties to form a special group, provisoinally called 'Friends of the Garrison' to look at ways of securing the long term future of the theatre.

The Garrison Theatre Stakeholders Group would like to welcome members of the public to a meeting in the Theatre on the Thursday 14th September between 7 and 8.30pm to discuss establishing a special group, provisionally called “Friends of the Garrison”, to explore ways to secure the long-term future of the 112-year-old, 280-seat theatre.

The Garrison Theatre Steering Group, which comprises members from a broad range of usergroups and includes Shetland Arts (SADA) and Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT), carried out research in late 2016 to gather the public’s views on the future of the Garrison Theatre. Around 800 respondents participated in the survey and the report of the findings summarised:

5.1 Importance of the Garrison Theatre

  • The majority of respondents agree (15.4%) or strongly agree (74.7%) with the statement “The Garrison Theatre is important to the future of the performing arts in Shetland.”

  • The survey identified a strong theme of the historical importance of the Garrison Theatre in the performing arts and wider culture of Shetland, and a significant percentage of the community regularly attend productions.

  • The positive community benefits of productions that involve and appeal to a wide age range of participants and audiences was a strong theme in support of the activities in the theatre.

5.2 Facilities

  • The majority of respondents agree (18.9%) or strongly agree (66.3%) with the statement “The Garrison Theatre is the only facility in Shetland suitable for traditional theatre productions.”

  • Comments indicated that respondents believe there is no current alternative to the production facilities in the Garrison Theatre in terms of backstage, sprung floor and wing space.

  • Moving current productions from the Garrison Theatre to other venues could present significant programming challenges (e.g. the Pantomime producers needs to block book a venue for a month).

5.3 Investment

  • The majority of respondents agree (24.6%) or strongly agree (62.8%) the statement “Continued investment in the Garrison Theatre is a good use of resources.”

  • The Steering Group recognizes the financial challenges of operating the Garrison Theatre in the face of reduced funding.

  • There is incomplete and in some instances inaccurate information in circulation relating to the Garrison Theatre (and Mareel), particularly around funding and building maintenance.

5.4 Programme

  • The majority of respondents agree (32.9%) or strongly agree (43.4%) with the statement

  • “The Garrison Theatre hosts a varied programme of events and productions that cater for my tastes.”

  • The majority of respondents agree (40.3%) or strongly agree (36.3%) with the statement “I would be willing to pay £20 or more for tickets to see live professional theatre.”

  • Requests for more touring productions was a theme in the comments.

5.5 Community Involvement

  • The majority of respondents agree (40.5%) with the statement “The Garrison Theatre could be managed by a voluntary group or trust.”

  • A common theme in the comments was that any such group or trust would still need the support of Shetland Charitable Trust and/or Shetland Arts.

  • The majority of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed (33.7%) with the statement “I would be willing to volunteer some of my time to helping out with events and productions in the Garrison Theatre.”

  • However, a large number of individuals agreed (28.5% = 220 people) or strongly agreed (17.34% = 134 people).

  • Many respondents already volunteer their time as performers or backstage operatives.

  • Existing time commitments would prevent many other respondents from volunteering.

Furthermore, the Garrison Theatre Steering Group provided a series of recommendations to the boards of SADA and SCT. These included:

To Establish a forum for a continued dialogue between the owners (SCT), the operators (SADA) and the users. The purpose of this group would be to:

  • Explore ownership and funding models to secure the long term future of The Garrison Theatre.

  • Work with Shetland Arts to provide and train a voluntary workforce to help bring down the variable costs of running events.

  • Act as a sounding board for new pricing models for the hire of The Garrison Theatre that will enable Shetland Arts to invest in the development of drama for the benefit of the whole of Shetland.

  • Develop a strategy for expanding and diversifying the use of The Garrison Theatre.”

Subsequent to the report, in early 2017 Shetland Charitable Trust and Shetland Arts boards agreed to continue to support the development and maintenance of the Garrison up to the end of March 2020 when Shetland Charitable Trust’s funding of Shetland Arts is due to be reviewed.

Quotes from Steering Group members

Izzy Swanson of Open Door Drama said, “We hope many of the people who expressed an opinion in the poll we did last year will come along to this meeting, this is a great opportunity to make sure your voice is heard.”

Bryan Peterson of Shetland Arts said, “The ongoing dialogue between the Steering Group, Shetland Arts and Shetland Charitable Trust has been frank, positive and fruitful and we look forward to this continuing with the new forum”

Martin Summers of Islesburgh Drama Group said, “We have been overwhelmed by the support shown to the Garrison Theatre by members of the public that took time out to complete our survey about securing a sustainable future for the theatre. Yet, the hard work doesn’t stop there, and we are calling on all the supporters of the Garrison to come forward to join us as Friends of the Garrison. It is essential that we gather support and work with both Shetland Arts and the Charitable Trust to secure a sustainable legacy for our wonderful theatre for generations to come. It is also essential that we showcase the impact and need for amateur drama in this fantastic community resource."

Links & Attachments

Survey - https://c.shetlandarts.org/assets/files/7284/garrison_theatre_steering_group_survey_and_recommendations_-_nov_2016.pdf

SCT Media Release 10 March - http://www.shetlandcharitabletrust.co.uk/support-for-garrison-theatre-to-continue-as-community-input-grows

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