Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Mowlem

Why is the Mowlem not a membership organisation run by a committee elected by the members?When the outgoing Swanage Urban District Council set it up as a semi-secret society all it cared about was its childish obsession with preventing the new District Council owning assets in Swanage. Isn't it about time the trustees got their act together and modernised the way it is organised instead of running it as a personal empire? Like every other organisation here it is so inward looking it is in danger of disappearing up its own.....and they are so pleased with themselves!Agglestone

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Posted by Anonymous to swanage view at 10/26/2005 02:30:39 PM

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I recall seeing that it's registered with the Charity Commission as simply a 'public reading room and library'

Anonymous said...

Not according to the people who run it. I was quoting from one of them. Perhaps they could put the terms of their charity on their web site for us all to see.

Agglestone

Anonymous said...

I can't believe they don't even support The Purbeck Film Festival?!
A top local event, recognised nationally and they don't get involved. Surely it would be good for business?
Mr Royston Vasey

nick storer said...

The whole building and management need a makeover much like the Lighthouse in Poole has had.

Anonymous said...

Read about the Mowlem at the Charity Commision website, where you can also see their latest posted accounts. Most interesting.

http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities/showcharity.asp?remchar=&chyno=243486

Anonymous said...

Can't say I found much enlightenment in the numbers but the objectives and the list of trustees are interesting. The trustees are certainly all very solid citizens, the salt of the earth in fact, but where are the arts figures you would expect to have heading up what calls itself a theatre and art centre?

The objectives are a bit odd, basically running a reading room and a meeting room. Has anyone at the charity commission noticed that the County Council provides libraries now? It was set up as a working men's institution for improvement and self education and is now a cinema and theatre. Constitutionally these are a very substantial tail wagging a small dog in the form of the community room.

We could have a real arts centre, run by the people who use it. They manage to do it in other places, why not here?

The Lighthouse has the advantage of being owned by Poole Council who were keen to have a high quality cultural resource as the centre of their strategy to regenerate that part of the town. It had £9 million from the lottery whereas the Mowlem has been signally incapable or unwilling to attract funding. £1.75 of this was for stabilisation and structral change, so they could get the management right.

Agglestone

Anonymous said...

Extract from the October issue of the Purbeck Gazette:
"The Mowlem Theatre has remarkably little going on considering its wonderful location and community theatre status. Ironically this same status prevents the community getting assistance from grant-giving arts organisations. The Mowlem's policy of taking 30% of gross admission fees encourages commercial ventures only for the foolhardy."

Is this why the Mowlem is so under-used in general, and why it's not used at all for the Jazz, Blues or Folk Festivals, or for the Annual Carnival? If so, isn't it a disgrace?

What does the Mowlem say in its defence?

nick storer said...

I can remember when my mate next door's dad had a holiday home down here and we came at weekends and for the summer holidays, eating in the Mowlem restaurant was a real treat, and we had to book to get a table on saturday nights. The Mowlem, like Swanage is not maturing like a fine wine should. It needs carefully looking after so not to turn to vinegar.

Theatre Lover said...

In defence of the Mowlem Trustees I must point out that they have managed to keep the doors open and the lights on over long years when other, much larger centres of population, have lost their centres of entertainment. They have achieved this by solid, reliable book-keeping. However, I have to agree with other correspondents that this has produced a beleagured, accountants' mentality. It is a matter of pride to the Trustees that they have not had to rely on public funding because this would require outsiders to interfere. However, this means that they have lost opportunity after opportunity of improving the building and its organisation when there have been funds available. We all know that it needs air-conditioning, new seating, better circulation areas, improved backstage facilities. It needs a promotion and programme budget. The assiduity of the Trustees means that the building will stand for years to come, sadly it will be empty as it becomes increasingly run down, uncomfortable and irrelevant to the current and future population of the town.

Anonymous said...

This is all most interesting. As far as the charity commission is concerned the Mowlem is there to provide a library and reading room. As far as the vast majority of the inhabitants of Swanage are concerned it is a theatre and cinema. The trustees are answerable to the commission for the former but to nobody at all for the latter.

They have the income from the shops, bars and restaurants which gives them financial independence and lets them ignore the views of the rest of the community.

So long as it does not impinge on the provision of the reading room they can use the rest of the building for pretty much anything.

They were given this independence for reasons which are irrelevant now. We do not have an empire building district council keen to operate leisure facilities in Swanage. Indeed it is now a disadvantage. It is quite clear that the route to some measure of prosperity for a town like Swanage is through cultural investment, look at StIves for example. This needs all the players to get together and draw up a plan for cultural provision and funding for the next several years and work together as partners. It also requires that these partners are accountable. Can the trustees rise to this challenge?

Agglestone

Theatre Lover said...

I agree with everything Agglestone says. The problem is, there is nothing to tempt the Trustees from their fortress apart from hard work, interference and, the distant possibility of additional funding.
In any case, I am not sure that the building is of any use in the twenty-first century. We need a different type of theatre with different facilities. My suggestion is to skate round the Trust altogether and start raising funds for a proper Arts Centre with accountable organisation that provides a resource for the cultural life of the whole town. Now that the sports centre is to be built (?) can we start the process of building a Palace of Culture?

Anonymous said...

The problem with trying to get funding for a new centre is that the first thing you have to do is an audit of existing facilities. As soon as the lottery, arts council etc see that we already have a theatre and arts centre it becomes very difficult to make the argument that we should have a second one.

The emphasis nowadays is very much on joined up planning and being able to show broad support. If a major player chooses to keep the process at arms length it gives them a pretty effective veto over what anybody else can do.

As the main object of the Mowlem Trust is to provide a library perhaps we should all go down there and ask for some books to read and then complain bitterly to the charity commissioners that they have not got any!

Theatre Lover said...

What you say abouth the audit is,unfortunately, true. However,just because someone erects a sign saying "Arts Centre" outside a building doesn't mean that what goes on inside is art. Incidentally, I have heard thast there is still a shelf of books retained somewhere in the building from the olden days. Perhaps, they could still be borrowed.

Anonymous said...

What joy it is to live in Swanage. We have a library that isn't a library, an arts centre without art both housed in a working men's institute devoid of working men and if it all gets too much you can try to get out of town on a railway line that doesn't go anywhere. What next, a vegetarian butchers shop? A teetotaler wine bar? Come to think of it we used to have a cafe that closed for lunch. All contributions towards the surrealisation of Swanage.

Agglestone

Anonymous said...

Renting the restaurant and bars out to a brewery looked like a good way to ensure a steady flow of money when it was done years ago but the result is that they have no relationship to the theatre. Go anywhere else where there is a restaurant on the premises and eating there and seeing a show are part of the same enjoyable experience. They even do strange things like serving light meals before performances.

I know they offer pasty and chips downstairs but crud like that just makes my point.

Anonymous said...

The total lack of any meaningful engagement with the rest of the town and it's cultural events has made the Mowlem Institute an irrelevence. The trustees should apply to the charity commision to alter the terms of its incorporation. It can and should be done.
Peverilpen