2015 has been a really interesting year for us at Lincoln Drill Hall. We started the year on the back of a record breaking run of our annual pantomime Aladdin – Over 12,000 tickets sold.
Artistically, this year has been one of our strongest in terms of both variety and quality. We presented challenging new theatre and performance from companies such as Theatre Re, Paper Birds, Lorraine and Alan, Joli Vyann and Daniel Bye. Our comedy programme included performances from Susan Calman, Hal Cruttenden, Rob Beckett and Jason Byrne and our huge range of music programming stretched across genres, from Sinfonia Viva and the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival, to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, The Unthanks, Midge Ure, Levellers and Billy Bragg to name but a few.
Our partnership with a number of venues in the East Midlands Children’s Theatre and Dance Network enabled us to present a huge range of work for families, companies such as Action Transport and Compagnia TPO from Italy brining engaging, visually beautiful work, in addition to our own programming of work such as local productions from Rhubarb Theatre and high quality popular titles such as Stick Man.
2015 proved that we continue to be a range of venues for a range of audiences. For some we are their local live music venue, for others somewhere to engage their children with the arts, for others the place for interesting theatre and for others, all of these. I think we succeeded in our aim to present the very best art for our communities and people visiting the city. And we did this whilst keeping our tickets at affordable prices for many people – our average ticket price across the year was under £10.
We provided chances for thousands of people to take part in the arts, from our youth theatre Fishtank through to our Happy Mondays toddlers group, our Full Bloom Dance classes for over 50’s and Acting Up drama group for adults among other participation opportunities.
The year was punctuated by our involvement in some significant city wide events. Our involvement in the Great Magna Carta Weekend, Festival800 and Frequency 2015 continued to demonstrate our place as the cultural heartbeat of the city. We welcomed back the stunning Ockham’s Razor with their wonderful new show Tipping Point. All of these key moments provided crucial anchor points as we demonstrate our importance to the development of Lincoln.
Away from the programme it was a significant year behind the scenes at the venue. In February we installed a new Box Office system that has already started helping us to increase sales and fundraise more effectively. Talking of fundraising, we spent a great deal of time developing our fundraising tools and will be publishing a new strategy in the new year. At the heart of this is the communication of our position as a charity, a cause that is worthy of support and the creation of the messages that will help my staff and trustees to encourage philanthropic support. Our Friends Scheme has been launched and we welcome as many people as possible to sign up as Friends of the venue. Details can be found on the home page of our website http://www.lincolndrillhall.com
Financially we had a strong year, strengthening the company reserves and starting the first year of our new three year funding agreement with Arts Council England. The Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn wasn’t as bad as predicted for Arts Council England – However the impact upon other public investors is significant. Our need to demonstrate our continued value has never been more important.
Perhaps the most significant change for the venue occurred at the end of the summer. After 11 years of service, Simon Hollingworth stepped down as Creative Director of the organisation. The range of work he has programmed in that time, the impact he has had on the arts landscape of the city cannot and should not be underestimated. His are very large shoes to fill.
I’m delighted though that at the end of November Adam Pownall joined us from Derby Theatre as our new Artistic Programme and Participation Manager. He brings a new set of ambitions, a fresh approach to our artistic delivery and I am truly excited about the impact he will have on our programme going into 2016.
Our spring season is as varied as ever, offering high quality theatre, music, dance, comedy and family shows. We’re examining how we can support more work being created by artists in the city and within the venue. We will have some really exciting announcements to make during the year about upcoming shows as well as how we’re hoping to support the next generation of artists to develop their careers. We have plans in the pipeline to expand our activities and space available to us to offer our communities to engage with us. We’ll be fundraising harder than ever and we’ll be working closely with colleagues across the Lincolnshire One Venues network to strengthen the cultural offer to communities across our vast and beautiful county. And as we end 2015, once again our pantomime has broken records – We’re confident of breaking the 13,000 tickets sold barrier for the first time with Snow White.
The future I believe remains bright for us at the Drill Hall. I urge you to join us on our journey. Happy New Year and here’s to a wonderful 2016.