AD/CEO Spring Update

AD/CEO Spring Update

There’s a lot going on at LAR at the moment, so I wanted to send out a bit of a general update to keep everyone abreast of current projects and plans for the place. So this really is intended for everyone: our wonderful team of staff and volunteers; our friends and patrons; our fundraisers and supporters; the visiting companies and regular hirers of spaces here; and anyone else interested in the building, the programme, and plans for the rest of this season as we begin to look ahead to the next. So please share and feel free to send in your feedback—we love to hear from you all.

As an organisation, we are going to be using this blog for updates like this more often, including important feedback from certain committee and board meetings at regular intervals, whenever relevant. So we hope this will be a useful source of information for those wanting to keep track of our progress as we continue to develop—as we must if we are to survive in what is quite a challenging time for the arts sector at present. As anyone who has worked in or for an arts venue before, places like this never stand still, and creativity stretches beyond its programming into the ways in which we can remain financially stable, expand our reach to new audiences, and find ways to serve every part of the community through innovative and collaborative projects.

Building Projects

Many of you will have already noticed that work is underway on what we are calling ‘Studio Two’. This space behind our main bar has been used for storage since the renovation of the rest of the building, but was recently cleared in readiness for its own renovation. While we spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to find a way of making this space a second cinema screen, its height and size meant this was simply not a sensible proposal. As a result—and following some plans regarding future programming and collaboration with a number of different local organisations to host events here—it is currently being transformed into a fresh, versatile new studio space for workshops, family-friendly events, small rehearsals/performances, and all kinds of meetings and public events or lettings (the attached featured image shows a CAD rendering of the planned space). The upstairs studio (now ‘Studio One’) will remain a place for dance/exercise classes and lots of other activities, but Studio Two will be equipped with some fixed seating at the back, some useful AV equipment (sound, lighting, projector, etc.—if we can secure some funding), and will eventually be connected to Oscars for technical access (it has already, of course, easy access to the bar and auditorium), making it a useful space for more performative or multi-space events. The work is due to be completed by July.

As a result of this development, and various requirements for visiting companies, the technical team, and the building more generally, it is now necessary to create some new storage space. The current plan—although in early stages—is to renovate the Oscars bar area, which is tired and over-sized, to create a void behind it, which will connect to both the Oscars main space and Studio Two. We will have to bring the bar forward and make it a bit smaller, but it will be more functional this way, and we anticipate only losing a small amount of room capacity as a result, as it will only eat into part of the often dead space that is the area in front of the current bar. We are working with contractors and key volunteers to ensure we are left with the best balance of bar area and storage space without impacting the current way Oscars is used too much. And we are hoping to replace the old Oscars stage with something that will not only allow us to free up additional space as required, but be more useful for visiting artists and live shows. This work is likely to take place in August, although our builders currently working on Studio Two will be creating the access while they undergo work in the adjacent space.

Over the summer, we are also planning to move the physical box office to a more central position in the building: in the void at the bottom of the main staircase. This will not only be a more useful way to welcome visitors to the building and allow better communication between Front-of-House staff and Box Office staff during events, but it will allow us to expand the Visitor Information Centre into a better resource for LAR and for Ludlow generally. The new VIC layout will feel more like an arts centre shop, but it will be much more than that, of course. It will retain all of its current functions as a visitor centre, but we aim to have: better furniture for displaying information and stock; a reading corner where you can sit with a coffee, partake in small-scale planned or impromptu activities, or just consult a map or visitor information; and in another corner an easy-to-use self service box office so you can pick up tickets easily (guided by staff still if required) if the main box office is closed.

Programming & Ticketing

The autumn season brings in some new initiatives and sees the return of the band nights, jazz and folk evenings, and, of course, lots of other live music and theatre. We are excited to announce the return of regular comedy events at LAR, a unique dance event, an even bigger pantomime, and some talks from special guests. You’ll have to wait for the next brochure to drop to find out more, so watch this space.

More generally, it is important to me that LAR is a space for everyone, so we will continue to develop family and youth programming, as well as an eclectic range of performing arts for all. We will continue to show a variety of films—blockbusters as well as plenty of new independent and foreign language films, with more affordable show times or deals where possible—and we intend to show as many Royal Opera House and National Theatre streams, as well as the increasingly popular Exhibition on Screen Series. We are also excited about the addition of a new space for programming, and intend to use this for a number of collaborative events, regular and one-offs.

It is also worth flagging that we will soon be launching ‘MALARKEY’—a free kids club for under 13s that will reward young people with free cinema tickets when they attend six or more family events. There will be monthly art competitions and winning entries will be featured on our social media, as well as being displayed in the new shop space.

In order to streamline box office processes here and reduce paper waste, we will be moving to a paperless ticketing system from the beginning of next season (1st September). Many of you already take advantage of our current option to receive tickets to your device and scan in at the door (or from your own printout if needs be), so we think it is a sensible decision to move forward with this way of working and phase out printed tickets. While we may offer to print tickets on paper if required (during box office opening hours), there may be a small fee for this service, and we hope that most of you won’t mind adapting to a paperless service.

Fundraising & Development

As many of you know, the members of Ludlow Assembly Rooms Fundraising & Events Committee (LARFE) do an enormous amount of work bringing in vital funds to keep this place well resourced. Their incredible efforts in fundraising through established events such as Secret Gardens—and new initiatives such as the progressive lunches—have allowed us to obtain new (or upgrade existing) essential equipment for Oscars and the Auditorium. Thank you to LARFE and everyone who supports these events; they make a huge difference… and they have a great time planning and running these events, so do get in touch if you’d like to be more involved in this way!

Likewise, we could not survive without the kind of regular support we receive from the Friends of LAR. Without you, we could not programme the wide variety of arts and film events that we host here, and we are so grateful to all of you for your commitment to this special place. We also look forward to welcoming new ‘Patrons’ of LAR this year—and, while this was soft-launched with our last brochure, we will be releasing flyers and making some announcements soon to properly launch this new opportunity for donors.

We hope that new opportunities for programming and lettings (such as provided by the new Studio Two and shop spaces) and close collaborations with the likes of Pentabus (more news on this coming soon), Ludwig Theatre Arts (especially as we develop and expand our Christmas offering), and our local festivals (Ludlow English Song Weekend, Ludlow Fringe Festival, Ludlow Food Festival, Ludlow Piano Festival, etc.) will continue to secure the vibrant and eclectic mix of shows and community events we host here at LAR. It is essential we work closely with the community in this way to stay afloat, and we must offer up our spaces for lettings and co-promoted events as well as the more focused programming of our various core categories. It really is our goal to have something for everyone, and lots to choose from! I hope that comes across from the current mix of programming. That said, we are beginning to open up more nights for sponsored films and events (such as the film about Eric Ravillious, Drawn to War, with director’s talk that is kindly being sponsored by John and Bridget Cherry) to allow more input from YOU! Get in touch if you’d like to sponsor something here and receive some tickets for you and your friends; it’s a great way to get behind an event here and bring in your friends and family.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank our brilliant team of staff and volunteers here; they work tirelessly to provide an exciting and welcoming environment for all our visitors. If you’d like to join in here as a volunteer, please get in touch. There is also currently a paid post for another technician being advertised at the moment, so please share with anyone who might be interested and suitably qualified.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog or ensure you are signed up to our newsletter for more news; I will send a summer update with more information on how these plans are progressing and of the exciting programme of events planned for the autumn season soon!

Best wishes,

Joel Baldwin
LAR Artistic Director & CEO