Written evidence submitted by Blackheath Halls
Blackheath Halls details of Covid-19 situation
Blackheath Halls is a thriving multi-arts venue in South East London and a wholly
owned subsidiary of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Blackheath Halls reopened in November 2018 after a major £3 million refurbishment which included a £0.5million development grant from Arts Council England.
Since then we have presented a wide-ranging programme at 196 events to an
audience of 24,632 including a Diwali themed festival, a series of classical
concerts ‘Blackheath Presents’ & comedians including Romesh Ranganathan.
Blackheath Halls community engagement projects in musical genres as various as gospel, classical, musical theatre & opera are successful & popular. In the past year
1123 participants have joined 223 rehearsal, taster & development sessions
performing to an audience of 4185 at 18 concerts.
At the heart of this community work is the flagship project, Blackheath Halls
Opera, an outstanding intergenerational community project running since
2007 with thousands of people from the local community aged from 8 to 85
participating, including teenagers with special needs. The 2019 project has
been shortlisted for an International Opera Award for its education and outreach
Blackheath Halls runs Royal Greenwich and Blackheath Halls Youth Choir in collaboration with Royal Greenwich Music Hub, a high-level classical
choir for sixty 8 -15-year olds selected by teachers as having a particular
aptitude for music.
Blackheath Halls has been closed since Tuesday 17 March. As an organisation
with no core funding, Blackheath Halls is financially dependent upon running events in the building. In the first month alone, 25 ticketed own promotions, community
engagement, Trinity Laban and hirers performances were cancelled, plus
workshops and private hires including London Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsals. We have contacted ticket buyers to offer refunds and are returning hirers balances. We have lost all bar income from cancelled events, as well as seeing a decrease before closure, when many audience members took the decision not to attend performances.
In addition to ongoing core costs, we have incurred expenditure for which there
is now no associated income, including a proportion of fees for artists cancelled
at short notice, and the Director and Musical Director of Blackheath Halls community opera, which has now been cancelled.
Our current income is from generous individuals waiving ticket refunds or
donating, hire fees that would have been payable by Trinity Laban for student
use of the building (which is being honoured), and a small amount from
Lewisham Council towards our community engagement programme, which we
believe is secure.
The uncertainty around the length of time social distancing will be in place
means that we are also seeing many hirers and artists who were provisionally
booked for later in the year understandably not want to confirm dates, and
therefore not being able to put tickets on sale, or invoice hirers for hire fees,
making our income look vulnerable for the immediate future.
We have been told our insurance does not cover us for business interruption
due to Covid-19.
Reserves are maintained at a level that enables Blackheath Halls to
manage financial risk and short-term income volatility and to ensure that
financial commitments can be met as they fall due. There was a Nil balance on
the Restricted Reserves at the start of our 2019-20 financial year (August 2019)
as previous capital donations received had been spent on the 2018
refurbishment. The Unrestricted Reserves balance was £2,028,897, but of this
only £131,788 relates to current assets, with the remainder predominantly fixed
assets (principally the estate). Of the current assets £120,897 was held in cash
and the remainder bar stock and debtors.
The current Covid-19 crisis is beyond the level of short-term volatility that could
have reasonably been anticipated, with the unprecedented closure of the
building for an extended period. We expect our unrestricted cash reserves to be spent – and exceeded – this year, should the building be unable to re-open for income generating activities.