Theatre Royal £500,000 Council grant decision next week – still few details available

The York Council is expected next week to confirm an additional grant of £1/2 million to the Theatre Royal.

The plan – which will be classified as “capital expenditure” and will increase the Councils already large capital debt – was revealed during the recent budget debate.

The report to the decision meeting which take place on 16th March is unsatisfactory in several respects. It fails to include essential information about the Theatres financial performance.

As a minimum the 2018/19 outturn, the 2019/20 and the (draft) 2020/21 budget should be made public. At the moment taxpayers have no idea whether the Theatre is profitable or not (probably not!).

There is no detail of the Theatres medium term business plans. There is no comment from the York Councillors (Crawshaw, Daubeney, Mason) who are supposed to look after the Council and residents’ financial interests on the Theatre Board

In 2015 the Council decided to sell the Theatre Royal building to the York Conservation Trust for £1. The Trust is a benign body which agree to make a major investment in essential repairs. The Council said that it planned to stop its annual support grant to the Theatre but instead agreed to make a contribution of £770,000 towards a £4.1 million restoration project. This project was intended to make the Theatre self-supporting.  The Council’s responsible executive member told the York Press in February 2016 “This funding agreement will strengthen York Theatre Royal’s sustainability for the future”

Theatre Royal refurbishment 2016

The refurbishment overran its timescale and the Theatre was effectively closed for nearly a year.

The most worrying aspect of the new deal is the decision to borrow money to fund it. The Council report says that the £500,000 borrowing will cost taxpayers “£35,000 a year” in interest charges and principal repayments. Only if the Council borrows the money over a 20 year term. Some of the proposed expenditure (IT, box office software) will be on items with an expected lifetime of less than 7 years. Borrowing money over a period longer than the life of an asset would be financial madness.

A more realistic borrowing time-frame would be 10 years, meaning taxpayers would be committed to ongoing payments of around £65,000 a year. 

NB The Council aggregates all its borrowing requirements and currently enjoys interest payments on its borrowings of less than 5%

Then there is the question of whether more investment will be sought in 4 years time?

The Council should not agree the expenditure without publishing a lot more information about the financial trajectory for the Theatre.

In the event of it ceasing trading, most of the taxpayer investment would be unrecoverable.

The demise of the Rose Theatre last year has already left the York taxpayer with a £40,000 plus bill.

It could be viewed by the Council as a timely warning about the need for prudent and well informed decisions.

What’s on in York: Adventures in the Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekhov and me

Wednesday January 29th 
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Why is Anton Chekhov so beloved and called “the father of the modern theatre”? Helen Wilson of York Settlement Community Players will explain why through anecdotes and a little biography; casting a light on why he called his plays comedies.

Come and toast Chekhov’s 160th birthday with a glass of vodka or wine. Be entertained by extracts of his work from the cast of The Seagull (27th February – 7th March at York Theatre Royal). As she directs the fourth of his major plays Helen shares her enthusiasm for a great Russian dramatist.

To book tickets for The Seagull production at York Theatre Royal visit:

To book tickets for this event, Helen’s talk on Anton Chekhov, please press the booking button.

What’s on in York: Patience by Gilbert & Sullivan

Patience _poster

York Theatre Royal

Wed 8 Nov, Thu 9 Nov, Fri 10 Nov, Sat 11 Nov

7.30pm – 9.45pm & 4.30pm – 7.15pm

£6 – £23

Twenty (or so) love-sick maidens, all in love with “aesthetic” poet Reginald Bunthorne; twenty (or so) officers of the Dragoon Guards, highly offended that their fiancées have all deserted them for a man who wears velveteen knickerbockers and carries a lily; Patience, the village milkmaid, a pretty but down-to-earth working girl, and Oh, no!!…not another velvet-clad poet….!

The 1870s/80s craze for all things aesthetic may long have passed, but Gilbert’s satire on affectation is still as valid and as funny as it was 136 years ago, and Sullivan’s music is at its most tuneful and witty.


Tickets range from £6 for children in the Rear and Side Gallery  to £23 for adults in the stalls or dress circle

Tickets available from York Theatre Royal Box Office (01904) 623568 or on line at

Really Really Want by Vesper Walk

York Theatre Royal :

Thu 10 Nov :

7.30pm – 9.45pm :


Vesper Walk A5Music theatre suitable for all ages.

Funny and poignant in equal doses, this is a tale of a 40-something who has always dreamed of being a Spice Girl and longs to liberate her dreams. It is told through music, theatre and movement, and examines the joys and pains of hope, ambition, freedom and friendship

Tickets cost £10

To book please call York Theatre Royal box office (01904) 623568 or online at