The Christmas decorations are now up at St James and our festive programme of events is in full swing. All the details are in the Diary or can be found on our website at www.stjames.gg. We do hope to see you at some of these events and its not too late to book if you do not yet have tickets. These are still available from our Box Office, or on the website, or can be purchased on the day at the event.
As 2018 draws to a close we can reflect upon a really successful Bicentenary Year for St James, thanks to a great deal of hard work from the team at St James, the Bicentenary Committee and the Gala Dinner Committee. Our bicentenary has included an exhibition of the history of the building since it was first opened in 1818, a special series of concerts throughout the year to mark the celebrations and a visit from HRH The Duke of Kent who toured the building, the exhibition and unveiled a plaque to mark the visit – his third to the building since it was converted to its current use in 1985. The visit of Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the Southbank Sinfonia was a particular highlight of the celebrations.
Another highlight was a spectacular “Grand Birthday Bash” dinner on the evening of Friday 9th November, when 200 strong supporters of St James came together despite the gale force winds and torrential rain battering the Hall to raise funds for the St James Jubilee Foundation.
This was a very “Guernsey” evening with local entertainment from Les Blondettes, Dennis Burns and the cast of GADOC who all donated their time. Compere for the evening, Dennis Burns also took to the stage to consider life in Guernsey from his particular comedy standpoint and had the audience almost in tears at his very local sense of humour. With catering from Sueco and a marvellous cake in the shape of the building by local cake-maker, Rachel Torode, and sponsored by Catherine Best, the evening also fundraised through a silent auction and a raffle, both of which were very well supported.
Overall the event and raffle sales raised just short of £30,000 which will be used by the St James Jubilee Foundation to fund capital works in the building to ensure that this Guernsey landmark maintains its place as the pre-eminent entertainment venue in Guernsey for many more years to come.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
November also marked our Annual General Meeting when our President, Treasurer and Executive Director gave their reports for the year.
As President, Stephen Ainsworth commented that 2018 had been a year of change, with a new president, a new executive director, a new Deputy Director, a new firm of Reporting Accountants, an extended programme of events, a new Bicentenary Exhibition, a working clock in the Clock Tower, a new Website, a new Ticket Booking System, a Diary delivered to all households in Guernsey to name but a few of these changes. He paid tribute to Peter Niven as his predecessor for his efforts and inspiration during his period as President and for his continuing contribution throughout 2018, not only in creating the Bicentenary Exhibition at the Gallery level and for masterminding the highly successful Gala Dinner, but also for arranging for the renovation of the Clock, the replanting of the gardens and much more.
He also recognised the unique contribution that Kirstin Simon had made as the Executive Director for more than twenty-five years. He commented that it is no exaggeration to say that St James would not be the successful institution it is today without Kirstin’s dedication and hard work over so many years. It has always been “Kirstin at St James” who has made everything happen and we were truly grateful to her.
Simon Milsted as Treasurer presented the St James 2017 accounts. Thanks were expressed to Collenette Jones, St James’ newly appointed Reporting Accountants. Particular mention was made to both the timeliness in which they carried out their task and the depth of attention given to St James. He drew attention to the Profit and Loss Account, which confirmed that, as forecast at the time of the previous AGM, a substantial trading deficiency was incurred in the year. This amounted to £47,000 in 2017 as compared to £24,000 in the previous year. Most costs were comparable with the former year as the expenses in running St James have been pared to the bone for some considerable time. The mounting losses reflected reducing turnover in almost every income category.
Turning to the future, the Executive Committee had adopted a number of initiatives intended to reduce loss making in 2018 and deliver breakeven in 2019, with a view to positive trading thereafter. Core performance achieved in the first half year of 2018 delivered losses of just £12,000, in line with the 2018 budget.
Jon Bisson as Executive Director outlined his vision for St James, and how he felt it could be developed in the future. He felt that the first step was to change the public perception of St James as it should be offering something for everyone. The final quarter of 2018 has seen strong growth and the increased footfall should continue. He wanted to combine the traditional concerts and events along with comedy nights and contemporary music events and had also negotiated a series of evenings in 2019 with the Shakespeare Globe Theatre Touring Company. He wanted St James to be a real hub for the local community and in his view this was totally achievable.
A NEW COUNCIL AND BOARD
As mentioned in the September Newsletter, proposals for an updated constitution were put to the AGM and these were passed unanimously. Under the new constitution, Council will have an advisory role and the management of St James will be devolved to a smaller Board, whose members will be the directors of the company. The Council will be responsible for selecting the Board members and for advising the Board in order to ensure that the interests of St James and the Members can be properly considered.
At the AGM three of our longstanding Council members, Ann Bessell, Chris Bradshaw and Barbara Minta stood down from Council and we are really grateful for their support over the years. To replace them we welcome five new Council members, Neil Houston, Fiona Naftel, Rob Roussel, Kate Swan and Tim Wright and we look forward to their contributions.
Stephen Ainsworth was elected as President while Gill Freeman was elected as Vice President. Simon Milsted and Emma Hodge were re-elected as Treasurer and Secretary respectively.
The new Board will thus be made up of Stephen Ainsworth as President, Gill Freeman as Vice President, Simon Milsted as Treasurer, Jon Bisson as Executive Director and Richard Mahy as elected by Council. They will be taking over the role of the old Executive Committee and will be responsible for the effective management of St James going forward.
A WARM WELCOME
As mentioned at the start of this Newsletter, we hope to give you a warm welcome when you next come to St James for one of our events. We were more than a little challenged in this hope when the heating in the main Hall failed just at the start of the winter season! Unfortunately, the manifolds, which link and control the flow of water from the boiler to the underfloor heating system, have come to the end of their lives and needed to be removed because of the major leaks that they were creating. We are currently looking at alternatives for the future to see which will be most cost effective. In the meantime we have installed temporary electric fans which will ensure that we can all comfortably enjoy the Christmas concerts this month.
TICKET SALE CHANGES
With so many events being added to the calendar, we have seen a dramatic increase in ticket sales on release date. This has meant some delays for customers as our staff process each sale. To resolve this situation and give members a much longer advance booking period, we have decided to release tickets throughout the year, instead of just every three month.
This means events will be promoted four months before the event date, with members’ advance booking opening straight away. Tickets will then go on general sale three months before the event date.
In concluding we wish all our members a great Christmas and a happy New Year.