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 it’s 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.
In the meantime, we wish all our Friends a great Christmas and a happy New Year.
A 2021 Preview
The December to March diary is now out and will be delivered to your door from 7th December onwards, thanks to the ongoing support from Guernsey Post, for which we are really grateful. It includes a wide range of events from a Motorcycle show to a Vintage Valentine’s Dance and the Eisteddfod’s Sacred Music events. More events are being added to the programme as they are finalised, so do keep an eye on our website, sign up for our regular email bulletins or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Because of continuing travel restrictions, the diary is not yet able to include performers from outside the Bailiwick and we are eagerly looking forward to the time when we have open borders and can include international performers within the events programme. In the meantime we can all enjoy the wealth of talent that is available within our own islands.
Cooked at St James
Since our last Newsletter we have reopened our extended Café as Cooked at St James, a joint venture between St James and Cooked. This is being managed by our new chef, Colin Samson, and with the assistance of other casual staff as needed for events. Colin joins us after a career including working at La Fregate, Le Nautique and Nineteen Restaurant.
With James Ferguson of Cooked we have developed an exciting new menu, and further details are available at www.stjames.gg/cooked. Don’t just take our word for it though, but come along and experience it yourselves!
The Café has been incredibly popular since it reopened, not only as a meeting point during the day, but for a wide range of evening activities, including informal music, theatre events and private parties. Some of these are in the latest diary, including regular Comedy Nights, monthly Guernsey Gigs and regular Jazz Nights. The café runs a full bar and a selection of food is also on offer. Do come early in order to get a good seat.
Dorey Centre Upgrade
At the end of last year we made an application for a capital grant from the States towards the refurbishment of the Dorey Centre, where a number of the facilities are coming to the end of their useful life and need replacing. We are delighted that this application was successful. We now have the funding we need and work has already started.
A new and efficient hot water system has been installed and a new heating and ventilation system will be installed early in the New Year, while the building has no events. However, the most visible part of the refurbishment so far is in the new and extended Café. This has certainly opened up the options for events at St James and has proved even more successful than we had hoped at the planning stage.
The major renovation works at St James are now approaching their completion, though inevitably took longer than originally planned, as further rectification work was identified. The external scaffolding on the North wall of the hall has now gone and has made an enormous improvement to the approach to the Dorey Centre. We are expecting the main internal scaffolding to be removed by the end of the year so that we will be able to commence the New Year with the main hall largely back to its former glory. Some residual works will need to take longer to complete as we wait for the plaster to fully dry out before it can be repainted.
Annual General Meeting
November marked our Annual General Meeting when our President, Treasurer and Executive Director gave their reports for the year.
As President, Stephen Ainsworth reported that 2020 had been the most challenging year experienced by St James since its conversion into a concert hall and event space. While it was expected that the renovation works during the year would cause disruption, 2020 was intended to be the year in which we built on the successes of 2019 and continued to broaden and develop the range of events at St James. However, in a single week in March we had to move from a vibrant programme of events to a complete closure and event cancellations, with emergency measures to minimise expenditure while keeping the buildings secure.
Happily, the Guernsey Lockdown was much shorter than in other places and we were able to reopen on a limited basis at the start of July. Stephen expressed his appreciation for the hard work of Jon Bisson and his team in enabling this to happen, and for remaining enthusiastic even when the requirements changed – sometimes daily. He also expressed appreciation for the generous donations to restore the reserves of St James and thus enabling it to reopen as soon as it was permitted to do so.
Jon Bisson then described the challenges of 2020 from an Executive Director’s perspective and commented that, while we were now well placed for 2021, there remain ongoing challenges since keeping an old building alive was not easy and was often expensive. The significant reduction in revenue from corporate bookings and the continued inability to secure highly profitable UK acts all put demands on the finances. However, he is continuing to diversify events and further support local artists, organisations and interests. This should provide a compelling argument for continued States support and help to generate enough income to secure the future of St James.
Claire Savage then presented her first report as Treasurer. She noted that, while there had been a significant loss in 2019, there had been a large number of positives for the year, not least the 30% growth in income. 2019 had been an experimental year with an expanded schedule of events and many successes. In response to these results, 2020 had been intended to streamline event scheduling and with targets for improved cost controls introduced. In the event, the original budget and business plan for the year had to be abandoned because of Lockdown and a new budget created to reflect the changed conditions. Due to some generous donations and due to income from the States Covid Payroll Co-funding Support Scheme, St James remained in a positive financial position and was a going concern. Indeed, quite remarkably, the Board anticipated ending the year in a close to breakeven position.
The meeting then continued by re-electing an unchanged Council, thus providing continuity of leadership in these unusual times. Stephen Ainsworth concluded by thanking all volunteer Council Members, Duty Managers, Stewards and Box Officers for their ongoing support to enable St James to remain as successful as it has been.
September saw the departure of Fiona Malley, our longest serving team member, who has decided to move to a new position after many years of sterling service to St James, most recently as Deputy Director. Fiona has played an invaluable role within the team over many years and will be greatly missed.
Be part of it
With such a small core of permanent staff, the support that our volunteer duty managers, stewards and box officers provide to Jon Bisson and his team is vital to enable St James to continue to host the wide range of events that has been offered post-lockdown. Jon will be poised to expand the programme of music, comedy and drama events with leading performers from outside Guernsey as soon as Covid 19 restrictions are able to be eased, and we want to be prepared with a larger pool of volunteers to readily cover all events.
The main focus of volunteers is on ensuring that our visitors have a warm welcome to St James and a good customer experience. The duties are not onerous, and in return volunteers enjoy free entry to the event, a complimentary drink and possibly a front row seat!
Any Friend of St James considering becoming a volunteer is invited to the fabulous expanded and refurbished café – Cooked at St James – to find out more about what is involved and meet current volunteers, over a glass of wine any time between 17.00 and 18.30 on Tuesday 8 December.
Following Fiona Malley’s departure, Board member Merise Wheatley has taken over the role of liaising with duty managers and stewards to cover the quarterly calendar of events. If you are unable to attend on 8 December but you are interested in becoming a volunteer then please let Merise know at email@example.com and she can provide more information.