For the past 26 years, The Gilbert & Sullivan Festival has provided enjoyment, friendship and fun to tens of thousands of people from around the world.
During that time, it jumped insurmountable hurdles and even had to start almost from scratch when it left Buxton for Harrogate in 2014. But, it has never faced anything quite so sudden and potentially devastating as the present crisis.
Unlike the majority of similar events and opera companies, the G&S Festival has never received any public funding and relies on ticket sales and donations to generate the necessary income. Ian and Janet Smith re-mortgaged their home, took out a hefty bank loan and ploughed much of their savings into propping up the Festival when it needed additional funds.
Several years ago we started Theatrical Adventures river cruises to help fund the Festival. They have been a massive success. Our bookings in February 2020 were excellent, and we knew we would be able to repay all the Festival debts at the end of the year.
Until that is, COVID-19 brought such devastation. We know travel will return, and we know we will be back with happy passengers soon. But, as a result of the cancellation of our March cruise, and having to repatriate many passengers, we will not be able to rely on any funds being available for the Festival in 2020.
It is not possible for any company to continue for long without any income, and we are indebted to friends who have been able to donate some or all of their tickets, or exchange for vouchers to use next year. It has been an enormous benefit to our cashflow to enable us to get through this dreadful time.
Now we must earn a minimum of £150,000 over the next twelve months to secure the future of the Festival and ensure that we can continue to bring outstanding productions and the very best performers to this unique and quintessentially English event.
Some people have questioned our need for support. Why do you need to raise money? Why do you need donations? You won’t have to spend anything! Unfortunately, it is not quite so simple.
The Festival takes months of planning and incurs the same general overheads as any other company. It has set monthly costs – for the website, salaries, software, all manner of things that cannot just be “switched off”.
There is substantial money already spent that is unrecoverable and there is very little hope that we can plan anything significant in the next few months to help to fill the coffers.
The organisation of the G&S Festival is a rolling process, and planning for the following year begins around April or May in the year before the Festival.
So, planning (and expenses) for the 2020 Festival started in April 2019 when we set the programme and started to contract the Creative Team – directors, conductors, stage managers, principals etc.
The Festival employs around 150 people, ranging from the cast, orchestra, creative team, costumes, and scenery designers to caterers, carpet layers, theatre builders and lighting and sound.
It is a huge logistical undertaking, particularly when you consider the fact that there will be approximately 2000 performers on the stage in Harrogate and thousands of visitors will pass through the theatre doors.