Monday, March 8, 2010


Please attend the open public meeting at 6.30 pm on Thursday 11 March at the Hackney Empire Theatre’

Roland and Claire Muldoon call for an all out effort to SAVE THE HACKNEY EMPIRE....

We have received numerous requests to do something to halt the impending disaster. We intend to mobilise as many as we can of those concerned for the future of the community orientated Theatre. Please attend the open public meeting at 6.30 pm on Thursday 11 March at the Hackney Empire Theatre’. Questions have been requested : so read on....

Liz Forgan, Chair of the Arts Council, recently declared in the Evening Standard....’most arts venues in England operate on a 30:30:30 rule of thumb — box office, private fundraising and subsidy. For every £1 the Arts Council puts in, £2 is pulled in from elsewhere, totaling £3 in income to the theatre or dance house. It has taken years to build up this system, and artists, arts organisations and their boards have become skilled partners with private sponsors and industry.’

Bearing in mind that the Theatre has survived since 2006 with 13% contributed from public subsidy, yet won a unique and popular following. Why did it fail to attract the 17% increase in Arts revenue funding which, by her own statement, the Theatre would be entitled to. Was this down to an ineffective Board of Directors?

Some questions for the Arts Council:

Does Liz Forgan know that there is huge public concern over the plans of Hackney Empire Ltd’s Board of Directors?

Does she support their plans to sell its hard fought for asset, The Bullion Room, and that it has threatened liquidation of the Company if this ill thought out action fails?

Does she know that the Arts Council backed plan to close for nine months 'reflection' has become farcical, as the true state of the current trading deficit turns out be not £1.5million but below £400,000? Or that the risk free 2010 programme, that the theatre was forced to cancel, would have contributed to reducing the loss as well as preserving the reputation and credibility of this locally important venue?

Is Liz Forgan aware that the costs incurred by the interim CEO Clarie Middleton are greater than the so called savings?

Does she have confidence in the Board's Finance and General Purpose Committee, under who’s leadership has led the Company to this crisis? Are they unaware that the Staff’s National Insurance Contributions have been deducted from their wages but not paid to NIC, since 2006? Or, if they were aware what were they up to?

Does the Arts and Hackney councils have another plan for the theatre, perhaps a change of policy up their sleeves? If so, can they/she distinguish for us all what they have against the established record of this pioneering Theatre and why they favour a change?

Why have the artists and contributors to the theatre’s recent programme not been paid, even though the Theatre is in receipt of sufficient public funding for one of the projects and properly earned box office income for the others?

Isn't it time to stop the rot and open the books and SAVE THE HACKNEY EMPIRE from its own Directors; say goodbye to Ms Middleton and reinstate the professional staff?

Some more questions for the meeting:

Now that it is in the public domain. What is the actual value of the soft capital loan from Sir Alan Sugar?
Is he now pressing for its return?
Has he even been made aware of the current management crisis?
Has his opinion be sought bearing in mind that his £1.3m gift was for a theatre of which, it is claimed, that its policies are about to be radically changed?
If half of the revenue deficit has been mitigated with the support of Arts and Hackney councils, leaving it at below £400,000 wouldn't it have been sensible to continue to hire out the theatre
together with the already planned, risk free, 2010 theatre programme that projected a surplus?
Have those major contributors to the charity's £19m Appeal been consulted regarding the change of policies which are now being planned?
What was the point of removing the programming staff before the change of direction has been endorsed by a new Board Directors? Bearing in mind that despite extremely low revenue funding, their work kept the Theatre afloat, were not responsible for the deficit, but were pursuing the Theatres declared progressive and accessible polices.
What pressure are the funding Bodies putting on the Theatre to change course? Does this relate to their disapproval of the Theatre’s programme or to the dysfunctional, divided and ill advised Board of Directors?
Was, Interim CEO, Clarie Middleton’s trail of destruction across Britain's precious theatre companies taken into consideration when she was given control of the Hackney Empire? Particularly when considering her wage is bigger than the top staff she made redundant.
Should the Members who sit on both the Boards of the freeholder:, Hackney Empire Preservation Trust and its tenant; Hackney Empire Limited, be allowed to influence the outcome of the Theatre’s future?
Do the funding bodies and Ms Middleton subscribe to the view that the theatre has too much Black theatre production included in the recent programme?
What consideration have those authorities involved in the re-direction of the Hackney Empire given to the hostility to their plans shown by Hackney residents?
Is there a plan to hive of the Theatre’s bars? e.g: seeking an arrangement with the Landlord of the Ship Pub (adjacent to the Empire) is being offered to run the Bars as a concession? If so, what is the benefit of such a deal as this to the Theatre and its audiences? What guarantees could be sought to protect the multi-racial policy of the Theatre and ensure proper access to the non alcohol drinking and traditionally low consuming audiences, over and above the demands of a profit driven commercial arrangement?
What guarantees can be offered that the policies of: access, community outreach, anti racism and discrimination, education and programming independence will be continued by any incoming Arts Council backed company?
The Hackney Empire was a purpose built Variety Theatre which, since 1986, has been seen as the home of the influential New Variety genre. What plans are being considered to promote this celebrated image?

We call on the Arts and Hackney Councils to call a halt to Ms Middleton’s and the Hackney Empire LTD destruction of a viable Theatre and, with help from its real supporters, negotiate a return to its
progressive and Independent programme. Support the Hackney Empire with sufficient funds and knowledgeable management.

Roland Muldoon, CEO and Artistic Director, Hackney Empire 1986 – 2005
Claire Muldoon, Head of Programming, Hackney Empire, 1986 – 2005

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