1) Why does the Sub Rooms make such huge losses?
Stroud District Council own the Sub Rooms and have done since 1964. Every council business runs in the same way - costs like HR and IT are split equally across everything it owns regardless of whether the services are used or not. These costs are known as on-costs and add about £160,000 to the running of the Sub Rooms every year making it even harder to make it a successful, council-run public arts venue.
2) What is the difference between Stroud District Council and Stroud Town Council?
Stroud District Council has 51 elected councillors from across the district and Stroud Town Council is made up of 18 councillors, elected by local people. Stroud Town Council are asking the District Council to transfer the freehold ownership of the Sub Rooms to them to ensure it stays in public ownership and is subject to public accountability. Stroud Town Council would then lease the building to Stroud Trust.
3) Why don’t Stroud District Council apply for grant funding to help support and run the Sub Rooms?
Councils are restricted in the funding they can apply for and this is where setting up a Trust is vital. A Trust can run as a charity (registered with the Charity Commission) with a CIC (Community Interest Company) trading arm. This would make the Sub Rooms eligible for funding and grants, but it also makes the management of the Sub Rooms transparent and accountable to both Stroud Town Council and the public.
4) Does the need for grant funding make it a viable business for the Trust?
External funding will make it much easier to run the venue, especially in the first few years as we grow the business. Once established the Sub Rooms could actually run without grant funding. Refurbishing the building to make a bigger, better cafe and bar means that income from food and drink could cover running costs. Stroud Town Council will be leasing the building to the Trust on a small ‘peppercorn’ rent keeping running costs as low as possible too.
5) What does it matter if the Sub Rooms is sold to a private company if they run it well?
Of course a private company could run the Sub Rooms well, except that once the building has been sold it will never be publicly owned again. Businesses come and go, they get bought out, and over time their set-up and ethos can change drastically. This option does not give any long-term security to the Sub Rooms. Also private companies are just that, private. They are not accountable to the community, so if the public isn't happy about the way the building is being run there is nothing they can do about it.
6) How will the Trust work?
Stroud Trust was set up as a proactive response to the pressures on council funding across a wide variety of assets. An organisation aiming to provide a strategic overview of arts, culture and leisure assets across the district, it is working in partnership with Stroud Town Council on the bid for the Sub Rooms. The Trust is a not-for-profit organisation, so all the money it makes will be ploughed directly back into the assets it runs. There will be a board of trustees which will include industry experts and people from the community.
7) Did Stroud Town Council give money to Stroud Trust for their Sub Rooms bid?
No. Stroud Town Council commissioned Locality, a social enterprise organisation, to put the business plan together for the Sub Rooms. The business plan was based on hundreds of hours of working with Stroud Town Council and the Trust members, using their expertise. Trust members have done this as un-paid volunteers.
8) Who are the Trust members?
Jess McQuail (CEO of an NGO and lead on the Lido project); Julie Howe (brand & design consultant and Co-Director of Stroud Fringe); John Bloxsom (company director and councillor); Andy Woods (former Director of Gloucester Guildhall and founding director of Artrix, Bromsgrove); Julie Ellison (consultant and lecturer in Social Enterprise); and Lucy Vincent (communications expert). Between us we’ve got over 40 years experience in the running of arts venues and festivals, running strategic organisations and managing large budgets.
9) What are you planning to do with the building?
The Sub Rooms has suffered from a lack of investment over many years. There are some major repairs that need doing (the roof being just one) and the facilities need bringing into the 21st century. Our plans include making a bigger, better cafe/bar, creating a new smaller, more intimate performance space, improving the toilets and generally giving the place a freshen-up. We also have longer-term plans to redevelop the forecourt to create an informal outdoor performance space and a more vibrant public square.
10) How will the programming change?
Our vision is for a dynamic, high-quality venue and the programming will reflect that. There will be a wide-ranging programme including local performers, promoters and workshop organisers alongside national and international theatre, dance, cinema, art and music. Our aim is to make the arts accessible to all and we plan to keep prices affordable and offer as much free access as possible. The Trust's priority is not to make a profit but to deliver a dynamic and enriching programme for everyone.
11) Can the Sub Rooms ever run as a viable business?
We think it can, and there are lots of other publicly owned arts venues across the country that have done exactly the same thing and have proved to be very successful. For example, The Stagg in Sevenoaks, Kent (a town of similar size to Stroud), was transferred to the local town council and run by a Trust. They were given £500k in council funding to refurbish the building and it now has a turnover in excess of £1million every year.
12) Why don’t the Trust work with Ecotricity as a partnership?
The Trust have always been open to the idea of a public/private partnership. It's a visionary approach we are sure could work.