Members of Rye Arts Festival gathered last Sunday for their AGM, held at the community centre on Conduit Hill. The hall was not so full as usual, with about 30 attending and 26 apologies given.
In the absence of a chairman (yet to be appointed), the meeting was chaired by Linda Harland, one of the trustees of this recently re-formed charitable interest organisation. The meeting started with a tribute given by Andy Stuart to the memory of Michel Duvoisin who had been a much loved and talented friend of the festival, but who had sadly died recently.
The brief report from the chair was followed by the treasurer, John Phillips, presenting in summary the 2019 accounts.
These showed a net deficit for the year of £5,365, a disappointing result but a considerable improvement on the £21,600 loss the previous year. Programme sales and sponsorship had both increased in value and festival expenses had been contained, but membership donations were down, reflecting a reduction in the number of members. Net reserves had fallen to £35,000, too low a level for comfort.
Following election of officers, the supervisory festival board now comprises John Case, Linda Harland, Andy Stuart, Michael Sweeney and John Phillips, with Mary Howse as secretary.
The business of actually running the festival is in the hands of the organising committee, comprising John Case (chair) – books & talks; Alison Moncrieff-Kelly – classical music; Geoff Boudreau – contemporary music; Niki Stuart – drama; Andy Stuart – films; Beth Harvey – box office & stewards; Alex Smith – website; Jeremy Smith – brochure, and Annie Ullman – secretary.
John Case announced that the festival programme launch will take place on June 21 and the ticket office will be relocated from Phillips & Stubbs’ offices to St Mary’s Centre this year.
Starting on Tuesday, May 5, a six week creative writing course, led by Richard Ormrod, will take place at St Mary’s Centre, costing £25 for all six sessions, tickets available online
With a firm eye on planning for 2021, the 50th anniversary of the Rye Arts Festival, John Case invited all members to email or write in with suggestions about what type of events they would like to see in Rye.
Mike Eve, past chairman and now sponsorship organiser, then gave “the financial dynamics” of the 2019 season. Of total income £105,000, just over half represented ticket sales, with the balance attributable to advertising, sponsorship and donations.
Nearly 1,000 people had bought tickets for events, 22% of them being members, with a total of 3,750 tickets sold. He stressed the importance of sponsorship and attracting more members, because “unlike other festivals, we receive no Arts Council backing or local authority support.
“The competitive scene is getting harder and harder to deal with”, he continued. “The 50th anniversary is critical, but beyond that needs re-thinking. It’s a big challenge.” He suggested opening discussions with other local festivals at Battle, Hastings, and Jam on the Marsh, to invite co-operation.
A contrasting view of this vision of growing the festival was put forward by Linda Harland. “The concept of ownership is important” she said, “and we may need to go back to the original model.” Linda was undismayed by the difference of views on the committee. “After all, we are a democracy”, she said.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .