Leamington theatre’s new manager shines the spotlight on the audience
THE customer is at the heart of the future of Leamington’s biggest entertainments venue, says the new man in charge.
David Guilding took over as manager of the Spa Centre from Anthony Flint just over four months ago - and approaching the challenges facing the council taxpayer-subsidised venue is what attracted him to the role.
Having been manager of the nearby Bridge House Theatre in Warwick for a year and before that, theatre house manager for Anvil Arts performing arts organisation in Hampshire, the 33-year-old is well experienced in the business of running an arts centre.
But the fears raised by Warwick District Council some three years ago about whether the Spa Centre is worth spending taxpayers’ money on have not completely disappeared - and it is Mr Guilding’s job to ensure that they do.
He said: “When Rose Winship, the council’s head of cultural services, interviewed me for this position, she was quite persuasive in telling me about the challenges that face the Spa Centre.
“The team here have made a great start with the refurbishment and taking on the town hall as part of the venue.
“The next stage is to knuckle down to give audiences value for monay.
“I hadn’t planned to move on from the Bridge House, but what Rose had to say sounded exciting to me. I wanted the challenge.”
Mr Guilding, who lives in Warwick with his family, has a lot of praise for the work done by Mr Flint over the past few years.
He said: “He made really good progress in mixing up the programme and making it relevant to everyone in the district.
“He experimented with a lot of different things. Some of the dramas and comedy gigs sold really well, while some of the shows did not.
“I have taken the strongest elements of three years of experimenting and built the programme from there.”
Having now appointed a head of customer services, Mr Guilding’s priority is to look at what audiences and potential audiences want out of the Spa Centre. He ran a feedback survey during the pantomime performances and is planning to do more of the same, starting with a district-wide questionnaire to be distributed in February.
He said: “We always negotiate with visiting companies to make sure the prices are as low as possible. They take the major share of box office sales.
“We have a responsibility with the public purse, so there is definitely a pressure there, but every venue in the country is under pressure at the moment.
“One of the first things I picked up on when we moved to the area was that people here really feel that the Spa Centre is theirs. There is support at high level in the council and from the public for the centre and I hope that will continue. “
* THE magical fairy tale Snow White brought record audiences to the Spa Centre this winter.
The show, produced by the Coventry-based Imagine Theatre, entertained 20,000 people at the Newbold Terrace venue in 40 performances last month - some 5,000 more than during the pantomime run in 2011 and the highest audiences numbers for any production ever staged at the theatre.
Steve Boden of Imagine Theatre said: “We are thrilled at how successful this year’s production has been. The Spa Centre has worked hard over the last few years to build up its audience for panto and the success is highlighted by how many people are booking year after year.
“We have had a fabulous growth in sales this year - a lot of that is to do with the excellent word of mouth from people who have seen the production. Our thanks go out to all the cast and crew who worked so hard to make the show such a special part of the festive season.”
The star role of Snow White was played by Coventry-based actress Hannah Farquharson, who said: “Everyone has had a fabulous time working on the show and the audience feedback has been amazing.”
Tickets are already available for this year’s pantomime, which will be Aladdin. Call 0845 218 3540 or visit www.royalspacentreandtownhall.co.uk
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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