The Minack Theatre is a charitable Incorporated Organisation, overseen by a board of trustees.
Review of Achievements & Public Benefit for 2021
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 before the Covid-19 pandemic except for one £30,000 grant in 1998 towards the building of the Visitor Centre. During 2021, it has received funds to pay furloughed staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and £24,750 in support grants from Cornwall Council.
186,200 visitors came to the Minack in 2021 (including show audiences), an expected but significant increase on the 104,342 who visited the theatre in 2020. Despite the national lockdown in the first quarter of the year and the retention of social distancing in public places until late July, the Minack was able to welcome visitors from 12 April and to stage performances (with limited audience numbers) from 25 May.
Audience capacity was increased (within government guidelines) as social distancing for seated audience members relaxed from 19 July. Despite the challenge of changing guidelines and an ongoing health crisis, the Minack performed to 87% capacity audiences across the traditional season to the end of September. A further 10,384 watched one of 42 performances in October and December. It is also notable that no performances in 2021 were cancelled due to Covid.
Despite the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the achievements and public benefits that the Minack provided in 2021 against the aims of the charity include:
1. Programme a wide range of theatre and other events to engage a diverse audience and enable active community participation while maintaining standards of excellence.
a. During 2021 we programmed 231 performances including 26 storytelling shows for children and families. We also held a play-reading of The Valley for an invited audience of friends and local residents. Of our main programme, 29 performances included community or non-professional players, an additional 27 involved children, young people or students and over 115 gave employment to Cornish-based professional companies or performers.
b. We staged six Minack productions, And then Come the Nightjars, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Ocean World, Songs Under the Stars, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Kiss that Missed. And then Come the Nightjars was also performed at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. We also produced the annual Minack Proms ourselves working with 21 freelance professional musicians, 17 of whom are based in Cornwall.
c. Among many highlights during year, we welcomed the G7 Partners to a special performance of excerpts from Ocean World. Despite the restrictions of Covid-19 which still impacted community theatre groups, we welcomed back four of our regular community based companies along with Cornwall-based Miracle Theatre, Illyria, David Mynne and Bash Street Theatre. We also welcomed first time performers at the Minack, Soda Bread Theatre and Told by an Idiot, comedian Adam Kay and local Cornish company Owdyado Theatre.
d. Our audience in 2021 came from all parts of the UK, though the largest proportion were from the South East and South West. There were a negligible number of overseas visitors.
e. 82,408 people attended a performance at the Minack during 2021. 18% of our audience for performances were aged under 16 (rising to 42% for storytelling shows) and we issued 442 free tickets to carers accompanying people with access needs. Stating an age is an optional feature of our booking system but based on the sample of >20,000 ticket purchasers (including those who did not attend performances) who did give their ages, 55% of them were aged 40 – 59, 24% were 24 – 39 and 18% were 60+.
2. Provide a wide range of creative opportunities, to inspire people, particularly Cornish children and students, to learn and develop all skills associated with live performances.
a. In 2021 we expanded our educational programme to provide more creative opportunities and activities for young people, both virtually during lockdown in the early part of the year, and later on in person.
b. Although activities were limited during the early part of the year, the Minack Acting and Musical Theatre Academies continued to provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills, including a workshop in unarmed combat with ‘Master at Arms’ Keith Wallis, and a visit from actor Christopher Eccleston. Our Acting Academy students all achieved either Merit or Distinction in Trinity Acting exams.
c. Students of the Musical Theatre Academy took part in Songs Under the Stars with West End performers Alistair Brammer and Nicola Espallardo and members of the Acting Academy took leading roles in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The Acting Academy also performed four newly commissioned plays from new writers on the main stage as part of our Emerging Writers scheme.
d. In September we auditioned entrants for both Academies, and saw the highest standard to date, resulting in the promotion of the more advanced members of each Academy to an Extended Academy.
e. The Arts Award programme continued to help students achieve recognised qualifications. In 2021, eighteen students passed the introductory ‘Discover’ level, with a further twelve in progress. Three Minack Academy students completed the ‘Explore’ level while three gained their Bronze and one their Silver Arts Award. There was a 100% pass rate for members of the Acting Academy who took these exams.
f. Ocean World was our first full scale education production, bringing together over 200 students from schools across Cornwall, plus students from the Lockwood School of Urban Dance, the Minack Academies and Cornwall Youth Chamber Choir.
g. We created a very successful education programme for Shakespeare week, based on a dramatic retelling of the story of Macbeth by John Brolly on the Minack stage. This was available online to schools throughout the UK and the pack was downloaded by 278 schools nationwide.
h. Engagement with schools was once more constrained during the first half of the year due to Covid-19, however we worked with students from seventeen schools across Cornwall (not including those who participated in Shakespeare Week) and delivered a total of 5,267 student hours of engagement.
i. We expanded our outreach work to engage hard to reach children in deprived areas. Working with Three Villages, Trelya and Learn 2 they delivered 241 student hours of engagement. They also established Creativity Club, a weekly arts club for 7–11year olds, based in The Centre, Newlyn.
j. We ran a series of eight ‘Play in a Day’ workshops which were free to the public, enabling young people to enjoy a creative experience without the commitment of our more in-depth programmes.
k. We also held a Youth Arts Network workshop as part of a project run by SHIFT (who are part of the Wiltshire Creative). A group of students created poignant audio or video pieces based reflecting issues important to them. Their work was on display for a month at the Salisbury Art Centre.
3. Educate visitors about Rowena Cade, her story and that of the Minack. Inspire them through creative presentation of exhibitions, live narration and digital interpretation.
a. During the first months of 2021, while we were unable to open, we continued to communicate with the public via social media, through a series of videos created by Mark Harandon in the character of Billy Rawlings, telling stories of the history of the theatre, short excerpts from our video library of recollections about the theatre and periodic updates on the work of our gardeners through the winter and spring. These videos all received thousands of views.
b. When the theatre first reopened to visitors, we were unable to give the public access to the Rowena Cade Exhibition, so we created a series of five guided tours to tell people the story of the Minack in a variety of imaginative ways, from the story of Billy and Miss Cade to an escape room style treasure hunt. These tours proved very popular and were delivered to a total of 1,757 people throughout the year.
c. We also created a digital audio tour, downloadable onto a mobile phone for people to use to view the theatre at their own pace.
d. We engaged in a cultural exchange with the Yakshagana Keremane Theatre in Kerala, India, and welcomed Shridhar Hegde for a six week visit, to share experience and best practice with the Minack.
4. Develop and nurture the natural environment of the Minack, especially the gardens, to enhance the experience of visiting the theatre and inspire people through its unique balance of natural and human art.
a. In the time of Covid-19 our visitors especially valued the freedom to enjoy the outdoor space. Survey respondents who had visited previously commented on the improvements to the gardens this year. Throughout 2021 our garden team worked to make the Minack gardens more accessible and appealing to the public, remodelling paths to create easier access and putting particular emphasis on keeping pathways clear and bedding areas weeded and trimmed. During the winter of 2021 the grounds team created a step free pathway through the upper garden, to enable visitors to use the same entrance as the rest of the public, and to enjoy the spectacular views from the upper parts of the garden.
b. The garden team developed a new plan for the gardens to enable plants to thrive better and to give a better viewing experience to the public. This includes grouping plants in the same area so it is easier to see the differences within plant families such as Eryngiums (Sea Holly) and Agapanthus. They will continue to work on this going forward.
c. In more exposed areas where high levels of damage occur they have started to use hardy annuals and annual bedding plants that are a cheaper alternative when it comes to being replaced.
d. They have also begun to plant more hardy perennials, which suffer less damage as they are dormant in the harsher winter months. This also reduces the necessity to replace plants in Spring.
e. The garden team have thinned out the existing planting to give individual plants more space, making them stronger and more able to cope in winter. This is essential to preserve succulents and South African plants.
f. The team have planted South African heathers along the lane to the car park, to make a more attractive entrance.
g. Historically, re-turfing the grass terraces has been done in early spring, however, this year the team overhauled the terraces and laid new turf in November/December, to give the grass longer to root and become stronger. This is an experiment to help the terraces be more robust and look better for longer.
5. Provide sustainable, modern facilities for audiences, visitors, staff and performers that are suitable to the unique environment of the Minack.
a. The Executive Director is working with the Trustees to create an Estates Management Strategy, a framework within which the buildings and grounds can be developed in order to accommodate the medium to long term strategic aims of the Minack as a theatre and a visitor destination.
b. Progress has been made through 2021 to ascertain the structural integrity of Rowena Cade’s original work, much of which is more than 60 years old. A detailed survey was commissioned from a concrete specialist and further investigative work is planned for 2022. This will inform a maintenance and replacement strategy to protect the iconic features of the Minack stage and auditorium.
6. Develop and support an outstanding team of versatile people to ensure visitors, performing companies and participants enjoy a life enhancing experience at the Minack.
a. The Minack is one of the area’s biggest employers with a total wage and salary bill of £791,703 in 2021 (2020: £875,309).
b. The Minack employed 34 people year-round and 60 people during the height of the performing season.
c. Staff were paid at least 38p above the National Living Wage and were offered flexible working. Over 85% of staff live in the rural area to the west of Penzance. From 1 January 2022 the minimum wage for all staff over the age of 21 will be £10 per hour which is above the ‘Real Living Wage’ as determined by the Living Wage Foundation.
d. Staff training through the year focussed on rebuilding the team after 2020’s restructuring process, plus training the staff in operational aspects such as first aid, safeguarding, fire safety and terrorism awareness.
e. Over 100 freelance practitioners were engaged on Minack productions and the education programme during the year. 77% of these are based in Cornwall.
7. Develop retail and catering strategies to meet the expectations of visitors and generate funds to support aims 1 to 6.
Retail and catering provision was affected by the pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing until July. Once distancing lifted the catering operation was also affected by the lack of available staff within the area. Despite this both areas performed well financially.
The spend per head on catering was £1.77 which is just above 2020’s £1.76 and significantly above 2019’s record £1.51.
The Minack continued to source almost all goods for resale from within the Cornish economy and continued to minimise use of single use plastics within this area of operation.
8. Generate sufficient funds through core activities to achieve aims 1 to 6 in a sustainable manner.
Unlike most theatres in the UK, the Minack depends almost exclusively on earned income. In 2021 we were able to recoup the losses of 2020 and achieve a surplus to maintain our ongoing programmes and help protect the historic fabric of the Minack Theatre.
In 2021 the Minack made a direct annual contribution to the Cornish economy of over £1m. It attracted 186,200 visitors, of whom 90% had home addresses outside Cornwall.
The majority of these visited as part of their holiday in Cornwall, staying locally and spending at other businesses on their way to and from the theatre.
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 was awarded Plastic Free status during 2021 as part of Planet PK’s bid for the village to be designated Plastic Free.