Year 9 of 15
2021 - September 2022
Executive Summary 2
Company Update 4
Vision Aims & Objectives 4
Current Performance 4
Council Subsidy 4
2021/22 Plan 5
Strategy 2021/22 6
Audience Development 7
Outreach Programme/Cultural Development: 7
Customer Satisfaction 8
Marketing Strategy 8
Operational Standards 9
Customer Service 9
Buildings Maintenance 9
Health & safety 10
Tools & Investment 11
The period of this
Plan covers proposed activity at The Hazlitt Theatre over the contractual
period October 2021 through September 2022, which constitutes the 9th year of
the 15 year contract between Parkwood and Maidstone Borough Council.
As we learn to live
with Covid in the coming year we will continue to face challenges. We will need
to increase some prices to combat the economic challenges from rises in minimum
and national wage and rising supply costs, in particular for utilities. These
rises will be restrained however, mindful of the pressures being faced by the
local community on their wallets and purses due to inflationary effects on
Our energies will
remain focused on providing safe and comfortable facilities for our customers
to enjoy the creative arts. The presented programme is already full, and we
anticipate our classes returning to pre pandemic attendance levels. We remain
confident that all KPI’s can be at least met if not exceeded, but we do expect
a tough year commercially.
Ticket sales for
next year are below pre pandemic levels but we recognise that there is caution
and hesitancy in the market at present, and this is being witnessed across UK
theatreland. The 2021 year end pantomime will not hit the heady attendance heights
we had reached pre pandemic. Many of the local schools have cancelled due to
covid concerns, and their ticket allocation has been shifted into 2022. The
lack of a junior performing company will also impact sales this year, but this
is something that we felt was unavoidable due to the risks presented backstage
of infection, leading to cancellations.
personnel have returned to work and due to their efforts in getting the Hazlitt
to the strong place it was in 2019, we are confident that we have weathered the
worst of the storm and can build rapidly back to, and then beyond the
achievements we previously have attained. It is also clear that the Maidstone
community are with us.
on current challenges inflicted by the pandemic
2020/21 was an unprecedented year for the
theatre sector in England. According to Arts Council England "The Covid-19
pandemic has represented the biggest crisis for the cultural sector since the
Second World War, with many organisations among the first to close and last to
reopen during national and local lockdowns."
As predominantly a receiving house, the
Hazlitt main stage experiences all of the bumps in the road, stresses and
traumas that the wider industry is currently encountering. As a local
community arts participation provider, which is the other side of the Hazlitt
offer, other different challenges are being faced up to.
In year 8 of the contract term the venue's
opportunity to generate income was restricted to the period from May to
October, and within that period, covid measures and cautionary behaviours
impacted. Virtually all of the staff were furloughed or part furloughed for the
entire contract year with the job retention scheme only finishing at the end of
September. Moreover we had to deal with the Council decision to terminate the
contract and then the reversal of that option.
The intervention of the government's
cultural recovery fund and job retention scheme, aligned with Parkwoods astute
management of resources meant that the Hazlitt made it through the year.
However, Covid has not exited stage left, and with a lack of published
financial support mechanisms on the horizon, we face a testing year ahead.
After reopening to audiences in May theatres
did have a surge in sales but that plateaued around September and we have not
managed to reach sales comparative to pre pandemic levels. This is the current
reality for all UK theatres. With covid cases on the rise and impending threats
of further measures to combat rises, we anticipate that sales will remain
sluggish and unpredictable for the majority of contract year 9. In addition
sales patterns are now very different with late sales being far more prevalent.
This undermines confidence for producers, a lot of whom are more hesitant to
send tours out. The theatre industry is speculating that it could take up to
four years for the sector to recover to pre pandemic position.
We face problems with recruitment, in
particular on the technical side and with front of house stewards. The entire
industry is facing skilled technical staff shortages as many have chosen to
leave the industry with more lucrative offers from other industries such as
transportation. Competition and wage inflation has made theatre front of house
pay rates uncompetitive. New national minimum wage and national living wage
rates will be a challenge as they shrink the gap between casual and contracted
staff rates, which will inevitably lead to a call to increase wages across the board.
Current inflation rates at 3%+ also provide additional pressures.
Supply chains to the industry are under
stress and unprecedented delays are the current norm. Whether it be timber for
set builds or food and drink supplies for the bar we are having to adapt,
compromise and deal with it.
Cost of living challenges will impact on our
patrons ability to buy tickets as household budgets feel the strain. Utility
prices are going to make a much greater indent into expenditure lines than
With all of the above in mind we approach
the period of this Plan which covers proposed activity at The Hazlitt Theatre
over the contractual period October 2021 through September 2022, which
constitutes the 9th year of the 15 year contract between Parkwood and Maidstone
It will be a tough year and we will need to
increase some of our prices to combat the challenges outlined, but also be
mindful of the constraints being faced by the local community. If our energy is
focused and we tackle all of the risks in the way we have managed the pandemic
thus far, we will have a successful year, even if it is not a commercially
Leisure has managed the Covid-19 period more robustly than almost all of our
leisure operator competitors. However we know that we must now transition into
an equally challenging period, where not only we drive recovery but embrace the
huge inroads we have made in systems; strategy and innovation and broaden our
horizons to start embracing the ‘art of the possible!’
mission is to create strong, lasting partnerships, built on a foundation of
efficient and effective delivery, to encourage happier and healthier
lifestyles. Our collaborative approach is based on honesty and transparency,
working closely with local authorities to deliver against their own corporate,
commercial and social objectives.
● Maximise the number of persons using the
Hazlitt in the most cost effective manner.
● Promote the Hazlitt’s availability as a
venue and encourage residents of and visitors to the Borough to make use of
● Invest in improvements to existing
programmes and facilities and/or the development of new ones.
● Continue to build on the work put in place
creating best practice relationships with other local businesses and outlets.
● Encourage the activities of bodies
concerned with the promotion of theatre and arts within the Borough.
● Support the Council’s objectives and
performing and educational facilities
and operational activities for community events
Reduce the overall
cost to the Council
● Take account of the need to develop young
● Engage with the Council and the community
to deliver and/or support other cultural events.
In the eighth year of the contract October 1st 2020 to
September 30th 2021 we sold 15,115 tickets for performances at the Hazlitt.
This forecast figure represents a fall in sales from the 42,357 for the same
period sales achieved in the previous 2019/20 contract period. The obvious
reason for the fall in sales was due to covid and for the period 20/21 we were
shut for most of that time.
As it stands, and taking the pantomime production out of the
equation, we currently have 37,727 seats on sale in 2022 of which 6,202 are
already sold meaning possible seats sold to capacity currently stands at 17%. The contractual year, October 2021 to close of
September 2022, will see 293 live performances take place as scheduled at this
point. This is an exceptional number of live performances due to all of the
rescheduling that took place following the forced closure from the covid
pandemic. For the venue to reach 50% capacity this would mean the venue selling
With the expansion of our community offerings
and the dense programme the venue will be dormant for only 42 days in this
contractual year meaning the number of days of usage stands at 323. For
purposes of maintenance and statutory compliance works we do not see any of the
remaining 42 dormant days for other programming or events.
pricing is largely determined by the visiting company depending on possible
capacities. The venue does on occasion negotiate if the price being suggested
is too low or, in some cases, too high. There is a general price bracket for
the Hazlitt Tickets which falls between £22 - £30. We also have to be mindful
of other local theatres and their ticket prices for similar shows to remain
competitive but at the same time affordable.
Our hire prices were set to rise at the beginning of 2022 but
due to the pandemic we are holding off a price hike to ensure and encourage our
community companies to continue to use the Hazlitt Theatre. This will be
reviewed during 2022 with an option to increase hire prices in 2023 following
consultation with the Hazlitt User Group.
Ticket prices continue to be negotiated with promoters and
managers on individual visiting shows but on the whole we have increased the
booking fee per ticket from £1.50 to £2. This
booking fee is to cover the administrative duties in the selling of the ticket
and with utilities and minimum wage going up in this contractual year this was
one revenue stream that could be raised to aid offsetting the extra
We have the desire to keep this year's outdoor project at £5 a
ticket but that is dependent on funding streams.
The price of the dance sessions and the choir have gone up for
the first time in Parkwood Leisure’s tenure.
Both the Choir and Dance Membership has gone from £55 to £65 per term. This is
still either below or extremely competitive with other local establishments
that offer similar services and as both of these groups have grown we are
having to employ more staff.
2020/21 saw the venue fill these roles.
● Two new technicians have joined the team
following the departure of several staff members from this department.
● One box office team member.
● One Youth Theatre Leader (Maternity cover -
● Numerous bar and FOH staff
The 2022 budget will facilitate the return of the Caretaker
role at the venue and very recently the Marketing & Development Manager
left their post so we are in the process of replacing that role.
will continue to have plans in place to facilitate any further possible changes
regarding covid and or restrictions. However the desire is to deliver an
extremely busy programme of events even more so
now following the amount of rescheduling forced upon us due to the closure.
have for, some time now, wanted to capitalize on our community offerings,
expand them and develop the current outreach. The pandemic that forced the
closure of the venue has given us the opportunity to do this as some of our
regular users have not come back so we see this as a starting point to offer
what those groups delivered but using our in-house team.
will see the launch of the Hazlitt Institute (HI). HI will encompass all that
we presently have by way of our Youth Theatre, Dance Company, Choir and outreach
work but be expanded by delivering more opportunities for our customers. As an
example two users that haven’t come back are Dancing for Fun (a dance session
aimed at an older demographic) and Hopshed (an inclusive theatre company for
young people) so we aim to now deliver similar sessions plus expanding what we
currently do. The Dance Company has moved quickly in terms of numbers and 2022
will see a brand new weekend delivery offering new dance disciplines and
genres. We want the Hazlitt Institute to go from strength to strength in 2022.
is a desire for the venue to become more sophisticated in its use of social
media to promote all that we do. We are now working more closely with
Parkwood’s central marketing team to develop some of the staple promotional
tools we have in place such as the website. However, we are also now working
with specialists in the social media field, such as we are with the Pantomime
2021, to enhance what we offer in an attempt to develop new audiences as well
as keep our current customer base up to date with the tools we know they use.
The programme, to a degree,
has looked after itself for the reason stated earlier which was all of the
rescheduling. We are still able to offer a wide and varied programme but due to
the amount we are concerned that some shows may slip by the way. We are keen to
cease further rescheduling and agreeing with managers and promoters that some
shows should be cancelled at no cost to either party.
The genres that the
contractual years programme will cover include the following; Drama, Music,
Dance, Tribute, Comedy, An Evening With, Family, Alternative. A full list of
the shows on offer can be found using the link below.
2021 will see the venue
deliver a version of Jack and the Beanstalk. In an attempt to mitigate
financial risk, as well as take the opportunity to see what difference it
makes, if any, with ticket sales, we made the decision to not cast a celebrity and
move from a live band to pre-recorded tracks for the musical element of the
show. We have pondered over the years as to how important a celebrity name is
to a production and this felt like the perfect year to produce a show without
the name and the cost that brings. Whereas a live band is a lovely luxury to
have, we have noticed that other, larger, pantomime producers have made the
switch to pre-recorded tracks. With the software available at the moment it has
increased the quality of the final sound of pre-recorded work immensely.
The 2022 pantomime is
looking like a return to Sleeping Beauty and will be launched at the opening of
the 2021 pantomime.
We are seeking opportunities to develop our
own work in order to target new and specific audiences. A specific audience we
know we should be attracting a lot more people from is the 20 - 35yr old age
category. We are hoping that the programming of the regular comedy stores will
attract this age group and then to develop the programme for this age group
further from the feedback we receive. A new explanation of how we will be
gathering feedback is given later in this document.
We want to become more inclusive and diverse
and have shows to try and attract a different audience and offer opportunities
for all people to enjoy the theatre. Examples of this type of programming are
‘Sign Along With Us’ which is a show aimed at deaf people or those that are
hard of hearing, The Kakatsisi Drummers who are a group of traditional drummers
from Ghana and we will be offering a relaxed performance at our 2021 Pantomime.
One area that we are keen on audience
development is to follow up on the success of 2021’s outdoor production of
Alice in Wonderland at Cobtree Park. It was successful on so many levels but
none more so than the amount of audience it attracted but also the type of
audience. With most of the production being underwritten by the Cultural
Recovery Fund we were able to offer the performances with £5 tickets. This gave
the opportunity for families who can’t necessarily afford the average ticket
price to attend a live piece of theatre, it meant we attracted a lot more
families and it appealed to those customers that are looking for a more unique
experience when it comes to watching theatre. We are looking at another show
this summer but seeking some funding is paramount to its success.
Pre the lockdown the Hazlitt Theatre was
sharing a professional partnership with Maplesden Noakes which saw both parties
mutually benefit from working together in a bespoke manner. Since then we have
been contacted by a few more schools and now have Maidstone Grammar School for
Girls and Oakwood Grammar on board. A professional partnership is a bespoke
package resulting in the schools receiving workshops, theatre visits, forums,
one to one work with students, ticket discounts and work experience opportunities
and in return the theatre is remunerated for work delivered and the theatre and
it's events and programme are promoted within the school and it's wider
aim to re-engage properly with our community groups at the beginning of 2022 by
way of holding regular meetings as we did prior to the pandemic. Most of these
groups still have bookings at the venue for this contractual year and we see
the opportunity to once again communicate with them face to face highly
important so that they can understand any changes that have occurred during the
pandemic that may affect them going forward.
The Hazlitt Institute as earlier commented on
will be the catalyst for developing the outreach programme and cultural
development the Hazlitt Theatre has to offer. The bigger picture going forward
is to develop the institute and what we offer by including an educational arm
to the venue and be offering performing arts opportunities for students looking
at 16+ education.
the Hazlitt Front of House team have been asking customers that are at the
venue to take a quick survey for us to be able to gauge customer satisfaction.
The first set of results will be issued in the Quarterly Report 4. The venue is
aiming for a 70% result in customers being satisfied and will respond if we
fall short of that number by acting on what feedback has been given as to why
we are not reaching the set target.
We continue to use Purple 7 to provide basic
post show feedback surveys.
is key to any venue and a sizable amount of the 2022 budget is given over to
the Marketing Department to engage with customers, build relationships with
other local businesses and promote the programme of events.
With the departure of the Marketing Manager
very recently we made the decision to delay employing a new person to the role
until January 2022. A more concise and detailed Marketing plan will be created
with the new employee using the abilities and skill set they provide coming
into the role.
In searching for the new employee one major
factor we will be looking for is experience and knowledge in the use of social
media as this element of marketing is growing and expanding all of the time. We
have had huge success over the last few years in forming relationships with
local companies and businesses to gain sponsorship opportunities for our events
and even though we still see this as extremely important the focus in 2022 will
be a little more on the venue's use of social media.
We are also working more closely with the
main Parkwood Marketing team in developing the website but, more importantly,
creating opportunities for strategic training possibilities. The current stock of four venues Parkwood Leisure manage
all have different skill sets, different demographics, varying degrees of
community offerings that are beginning to be shared so the learning can also
take place within the in-house team.
We continue to provide customer service
training for new staff members and then run refresher courses at strategic
points in the year for existing staff.
As stated earlier in this document we will
trial an onsite survey with customers in order to capture very immediate
feedback to enhance our results requested from MBC.
The venue underwent a very thorough and deep
clean process before it opened its doors again back in April 2021. New products
used across Parkwood Theatre sites ensured a very high level of sanitization
took place and continued to do so all through the time the venue was open under
restrictions. The venue has returned to it's previous cleaning operation but we
still have hand sanitizers in us at strategic points in the building and
signage is still in place ensuring customers are aware of the cleaning we are
carrying out plus reminding them of some procedures they can follow so that we
can operate safely as safely as possible. We are fully equipped and prepared
to return to operating procedures that were put in place when in lockdown or
will continue to keep the venue up to date with regards to stat compliance
however it’s somewhat of a difficult matter to predict what maintenance will be
carried out over the contractual year as so much of it is responsive and prioritised.
As you will see below some of the items we know that are going to happen are
listed but like every year the great majority of what we do is in response to
something breaking, shutting down or going wrong.
issue that we will be investigating further in this contractual year, and stems
from ventilation needs due to covid, is an air handling system. As it stands
the old mechanism that used to exist before Parkwood took on the management was
disabled. We will first be looking at what the job would entail to reinstate
the existing system, as well the cost.
Post-lockdown closure, a lot of work was
done on statutory compliance, which brought the compliance score to 100%. We
are committed to continue these efforts.
In conjunction with the landlord, we are to
install edge-protection & mansafe systems on the building’s roofs, to
ensure proper continued maintenance in difficult areas.
We will continue to push the landlord to
keep to their responsibilities with regard to maintenance of the building and
the maintenance matrix document.
Work has been completed, and will continue
into 2022, on magnetically-closing fire doors throughout the building.
Undersized pipework has been identified in
the heating system, in the Hazlitt dressing rooms. Work has been scheduled to
replace this pipework with the correct diameter piping, in 2022, after asbestos
was recently removed to enable these works to happen.
Using Parkwood Capital Expenditure funds, we
are to update the CCTV in the later part of 2021/early part of 2022.
Our efforts to reduce energy consumption
have been reflected in The Hazlitt’s Display Energy Certificate, year upon year
since the contract began. A typical score for such a building would be 100.
The Hazlitt’s is now just 35 (see attached image). In 2020-21 we installed new,
custom-made LED lighting in the two studio areas and gallery. We also plan to
replace the Hazlitt auditorium and dressing room lighting with LEDs soon. This
will further reduce our energy consumption.
We will continue to keep up-to-date with any
recommended Covid-19 measures, including, as appropriate, displaying QR codes
and collating visitor information for monitoring and contacting purposes etc.
As well as updating the CCTV system, we will
update the lighting in the traditionally-troublesome bins area.
We are planning to install gates in Rose
Yard at our entrance/exit to the building. This should stop Source Bar and
others from placing their industrial bins at our fire exit.
The Hazlitt Theatre’s health and safety
committee meets regularly, and all staff are encouraged to submit their
thoughts and ideas to these meetings.
The two main recommendations of any health
& safety audits in the last few years have been the rigging of lights on
the Hazlitt’s advance bar and side booms, and the old and potentially dangerous
strip lighting in the dressing rooms. By the second quarter of 2022 we will
have eliminated both of these risks- the lighting bars will be motorised, and
the dressing room lighting will have been replaced.
Operating Tools & Investment
We will continue to provide
the correct tools so that our people can do the best job.
In 2020/21 we received a
small amount of capex money to update and reinforce the CCTV system.
Capex is a well established
working tool within the processes and procedures of Parkwood Leisure in which
venues can source varying items or equipment to enhance the building's
aesthetics or its working procedures and there are plans in place for a healthy
amount of investment into the venue in 2022. Staff have been made aware and
asked to share ideas on how we could best spend the money.