Chair’s 2015/16 review

Every year, our chair – currently Stephen Gaskell – writes a review about what we’ve been up to. Stephen presented his report to our annual general meeting on 14 June.

But for those of you who couldn’t make it, Stephen’s report is below. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

 

The headlines

  • A year of stepping out into new genres of music and dance
  • More new faces and bags and bags of talent
  • Further strengthening of our resources to build for the future
  • Exciting changes ahead yet always local

Introductory words

Hello all and welcome to the annual general meeting for 2016. Last year, my first as chair, I talked about how it had been an incredibly successful year with a real enthusiasm growing around the group. I also made reference to the challenges ahead with rising costs of production and venue hire and needing to consider how we keep our income sustained, interest from members up and maintain high quality shows that keep our local community entertained. I have to say with huge thanks to all my committee colleagues and you our wider membership we have risen to the challenge and the group has never felt stronger. In this report I’ll draw on some of my reflections on what we’ve achieved in the last year and look ahead to the next year and beyond that too!

Stepping Out and Oh what a lovely war – our big shows

Our big shows in October 2015 and June 2016 were fantastic. Both demonstrated the group’s ability to expand its offer into new and different genres. I think both productions also highlighted the hard work, commitment and talent we have among our players, existing and new.

My particular thanks go to Felicity Nelson for “Stepping Out”, the October show. Set in the 1980s – the decade that fashion surely tried to forget – it told the story of a local dance troop who met in a draughty church hall once a week to gossip, console each other and tap dance their troubles away only to suddenly find themselves performing on the big stage in a superbly choreographed performance. Well done to all the team for having the confidence and courage to move us into the music and dance genre for the first time in some time. Felicity worked brilliantly, especially as she had to keep us organised as group secretary whilst simultaneously directing the show, and brought great new talent into our own troops.

Talking of troops, our second production of this 2015/16 year, was an absolutely fantastic performance taking us way back to the start of the last century and the Great War. Having already proved our music and dance credentials last autumn, “Oh what a lovely war” maxed that up somewhat in June 2016 with a musical performance to rival some of the best in the region. I would like to give a huge thanks and congratulations to Shelley Brownlee and Laura Merrett who were directing for the very first time with St Georges and who had a vision for the show that was realised brilliantly on each of the show nights. I would also like to thank the wider production team for their excellent work on music, make up, props, technics, stage management and front of house. The combination of a very large (and extremely talented) cast, some different advertising including through the local “Brockley Max” festival, the 100 year anniversaries for some of the War’s major battles and a well recognised play helped to push our audience numbers to the highest experienced in recent times. Over the three nights in total more than 300 people came to support us and I think would have left having had a great night at great value for just £8.50 a ticket! Simply superb.

Off show activities – our first ever “live” show in a bar!

Of course it’s not just about the main shows. Over the last few years we’ve been trying to do more to encourage people to get involved in other events and activities like readings and one-off live performances. Thank you to Dionne Farrell for organising our readings earlier this year. I would also like to thank those who joined me in producing our first ever ‘Christmas Cavalcade’, an experiment in live theatre with a festive twist which we staged in the main bar area of the Honor Oak pub. Although we had to compete with a few lively drinkers, the feedback was positive and something I hope we can repeat in different settings locally. Perhaps this is something for one of you budding directors or producers out there? Let us know and as a committee we’ll be really happy to support your ideas.

Looking to the longer term

All in all I can’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved in the last year. For many of us, we combine our work with St Georges Players with our own jobs and full time busy lives, often not an easy balance! Also the costs of production keep rising, meaning we have to be even smarter with producing high quality shows at the lowest possible cost. That’s why this year, with a further increase in hall hire (as the church too have rising costs to meet) to factor in, I’m proposing that we increase ticket charges. This will bring us more in line with other groups regionally whilst still maintaining a competitive edge in performance terms when considering the exceptional talent we possess in our players.

Over the last few years we’ve enhanced our presence and reputation in the wider local community, including with businesses and other organisations, which can only be a good thing. With this in mind I’d like us to exploit this advantage by considering other venues for future performances. This would give us the ability to perform main shows outside the normal half term times (which is our regular slot for use of the church hall) as well as create new options for different partnerships for the group in the longer term.

I hope you’ll agree with me therefore that we have exciting times ahead. We’ve worked hard in recent years to bring the group back from a tricky financial position which threatened its long term future into one that is financially secure and buzzing with talent, energy and ideas for even better times to come. All underpinned by our determination to be a truly local group for the local community who continue to support us so well. Here’s a big thanks to them and to a great year ahead!

Stephen Gaskell
Chair

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