The Minack Theatre is a charitable trust and community interest company, overseen by a board of trustees.
Review of Achievements & Public Benefit for 2020
The trustees have referred to the Charity Commission’s general guidance on public benefit when reviewing the aims and objectives and in planning future activities.
The trustees are committed to taking their responsibility to visitors, the local community and other stakeholders seriously.
The Minack has been run by a charity since 1976, developing without support from the public purse except for one £30,000 grant in 1998 towards the building of the Visitor Centre. During 2020, it has received funds to pay furloughed staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and a £27,000 support grant from Cornwall Council.
104,342 visitors came to the Minack in 2020 which was just 34.2% of the record 305,356 visitors seen in 2019. Situated outdoors, the Minack was one of the first theatres in the UK to reopen after the lockdown and was one of the most prolific theatres in the country in terms of number of performances staged after lockdown. This was recognised by the naming of Zoë Curnow, the Minack’s Executive Director, as one of the most influential and inspiring people working in British theatre in 2020 as part of The Stage 100 list published in January 2021.
Despite the serious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the achievements and public benefits that the Minack provided in 2020 include:
The Minack enables a wide cross-section of the public, including children, to experience live theatre.
- In 2020, despite being closed from late March to July, the Minack presented 181 live performances, including 51 specifically aimed at children and young people (2019: 225).
- Artistic highlights of 2020 included the first visit to the Minack by Penzance-based Bash Street Theatre with their hilarious silent movie-style production of The Strongman inspired by Charlie Chaplin. After a successful remount of the 2019 Minack production of Stones in his Pockets, the theatre welcomed prolific producer David Pugh who restaged his touring production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita for the Minack stage. This production received many reviews including one in the New York Times.
- The Minack was also delighted to welcome several other new professional companies including the Birmingham Stage Company with their brilliant stage adaptation of the Horrible Histories franchise, Barmy Britain. It was also a delight to work with many of Cornwall’s finest freelancers including David Mynne, Ben Kernow and Bec Applebee, plus a host of outstanding musicians in the ‘Minack Musical Mondays’ season.
- 41,157 members of the public attended a performance at the Minack during the year (2019: 119,444). The season as a whole achieved an 83% occupancy (2019: 73.8%) with programming over four months from July to early November, plus eleven performances in December. The capacity for events was reduced from 710 to 270 in order to distance adequately each audience group from each other. Four performances were cancelled (2019: six) with fewer than 1,000 tickets being refunded (2019: 4,800).
- The Minack attracts a non-traditional theatre audience to performances. Visitors analysis shows that 80% of those attending performances in 2020 came to the Minack as part of their holiday experience (2019: 73%).
- The Minack is recognised by customers as a positive cultural experience. The Minack maintained a five-star rating on Trip Advisor throughout 2020 with 84% judging their experience “Excellent” and a further 12% “Very Good”. The average score out of 5 for audiences in response to how much they enjoyed their visit was 4.86.
- Ticket pricing for live events (excluding storytelling) in 2020 differed significantly from the past, given the smaller audience capacity: average yield was £20.61, up from £11.93 in 2019.
The Minack provides opportunities for the public, particularly Cornish children and young people, to learn and develop skills associated with live theatre performances.
- The Minack’s robust education programme (titled ‘Taking Part’), offers a variety of projects for Cornish people and visitors. 1,090 local children performed on the stage through the limited part of 2020 as part of a school visit (2019: over 3,000). This work will be built back up once schools are open and able to take children on trips.
- The professional development academies in acting and musical theatre ran throughout 2020, using zoom when getting together in person was not possible. Prior to the March lockdown, 28 additional young people were meeting regularly to prepare a VE day celebration concert which was sadly cancelled.
- Over 120 young people attended auditions for forthcoming Minack productions involving young people.
- For the second consecutive year the Education Team went out on the road to support Shakespeare week across Cornwall. They visited 18 schools introducing over 500 children to Shakespeare’s work.
- The Education Team worked in partnership with Music and Dance Education (MADE) and delivered 10 workshops with early years groups from schools in the Helston/Lizard area of Cornwall as part of the ‘A Child’s Eye View’ project.
- 21 Cornish school children in the rural parishes west of Penzance are currently working on Arts Awards with members of the Education Team. 14 have gained their ‘Discover’ awards and 2 have gained ‘Explore’.
- The engagement project working with Trelya to support young people on Treneere Estate in Penzance is slowly progressing with about 12 young people regularly attending weekly sessions when this is feasible in line with Covid-19 guidance.
- All education projects delivered at the Minack are free for participants and funded from net income.
The Minack strives to create the best possible experience for visitors and performing companies.
The Minack implements an annual programme of improvements to the physical site and buildings, to enhance the visitor experience and promote inclusivity and wellbeing.
- Following the recruitment of a new Head of Gardens and Grounds, a programme of refurbishment of the gardens began during the three-month lockdown. Visitors and audience members were asked to score the gardens in the 2020 survey - the average score was 4.8 out of 5. Another new project was the offer of garden tours led by the Head of Gardens and Grounds. 21 tours were run giving 193 visitors a detailed horticultural tour of the areas of planting.
- In early 2020, a virtual reality display was completed to enable the physically disadvantaged and elderly to experience the magic of being on the Minack stage without having to manage steep flights of steps. This was well received by visitors in the weeks before the lockdown in March.
- In 2018, the indoor facilities were extended to include an indoor rehearsal room, improving comfort and facilities for performers and backstage staff. As well as extensive use for educational projects, in 2019 and 2020 this room was also made available when practical for use by local theatre companies and freelance practitioners to support their work.
- The Minack strives to develop accessibility of performances to the aurally and visually impaired. All performances in 2020 ran in a relaxed way with the audience being free to move around. There was no demand for audio-described performances in 2020, but development of provision for the aurally and visually impaired remains a priority.
- In 2021 the Retail & Catering strategy had to be adapted to meet the social distancing guidance and ensure staff were protected from the risks associated with Covid-19. Despite the Café being closed, the spend per head across the takeaway outlets in 2020 exceeded that across all catering in 2019.
The Minack uses the legacy of Rowena Cade to inspire others through her remarkable story.
Rowena Cade, the woman who created the Minack, is a figure of inspiration to many people. By telling her story and spreading awareness of her achievement, the Minack seeks to inspire others through her example.
- 7% of Trip Advisor reviewers mention Rowena’s story as an important takeaway from their visit to the Minack, many of them specifically referring to her as inspirational. 9% of 2020 survey respondents who commented said that they would like more information about the history of the theatre and how it was created.
- Visitors were entertained three times a week after the July reopening by local actor Mark Harandon telling stories of Rowena building the Minack from the point of view of Billy Rawlings, ‘Builder’s Mate’ and Rowena’s gardener.
The Minack seeks to be an economically and environmentally sustainable business and to make a positive contribution to the regional economy.
- Despite the lockdown and lower numbers in 2020, the Minack still made a direct annual contribution to the Cornish economy of over £1.1m. It attracted 104,342 visitors, and the 2020 visitor survey indicates that at least 82,000 of these would have visited as part of their holiday in Cornwall, staying locally and spending at other businesses on their way to and from the theatre.
- The Minack is one of the area’s biggest employers with a total wage and salary bill of £875,309 in 2020 (2019: £860,576). Despite redundancies due to the lockdowns and reduced visitor numbers, the Minack employed more than 25 people year-round and 65 people during the height of the performing season. Staff were paid at least 40p above the National Living Wage and were offered flexible working. Over 85% of staff live in the rural area to the west of Penzance.
- Visiting performers spend significant sums on accommodation and living costs. One recent theatre company brought more than 300 additional people to the area for a week and rented 120 self-catering units, thereby contributing at least £150,000 to the economy west of Penzance.
- Wherever possible, the Minack sources goods and services from within Cornwall. Over the last twenty years, using Cornish companies, it has completed building projects costing more than £2,000,000.
- The Minack actively supports Cornish professional theatre companies, several of which perform at the Minack each season, thereby bringing them to bigger audiences and generating significant income. Freelance practitioners are engaged on Minack productions and the education programme.
- During 2019 and 2020, the Minack worked with Tevi to review all aspects of the operation in order to minimise waste and be more efficient with use of resources. One outcome of this is that the Minack is aspiring to be plastic free, particularly in the Retail & Catering strategy.
- The Minack provides an electric charge point for customers to recharge their electric vehicles for free.
With very little public transport, almost all visitors arrive by car contributing to the severe, seasonal traffic congestion on the now inadequate approach roads. The Executive Director is working as part of the Porthcurno Coastal Community Team to address these issues. The Minack is also investing its own funds and staff resource to explore ways of minimising the adverse environmental impact of visitors on access to Porthcurno.