Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mowlem reactivated

k nunneley said...

Though I am wading in to the Mowlem debate rather late, I was surprised and delighted to come across so many strong opinions. I am a Wareham resident studying for a Masters in Cultural Industries Management, and have chosen the Mowlem as the subject of my Fundraising Plan assignment. I must admit to loving the building, decrepit though it now is, and although I greatly admire Laurence's scheme I do feel that to adopt this kind of radical makeover would be to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Mowlem is a great example of British Brutalist architecture and, love it or hate it, I do think there is argument for listing it and renovating accordingly. As for who would pay for it, in my view, the Mowlem as an organisation is stuck in what is known as 'mission drift'. In other words, to stay afloat the charity is having to engage in commercial activities that go against its mission i.e to 'provide further education and improve the conditions of life for Swanage residents'. Currently the Mowlem makes it's community room available to the Mowlem Elders Circle several mornings a week, but as far as I can tell this is the only 'charitable' activity it conducts. According to my research this is probably the reason why their various funding applications haven't succeeded, and will go on not succeeding until they can show that the Mowlem genuinely benefits the Swanage community. I must stress that It's clear that the Mowlem staff do a fantastic job under difficult circumstances. Brian Travers already does the job of several people, and to expect him to be a Marketing and Development expert of the kind that arts organisations employ nowadays is pretty unfair; and the trustees are obviously an able and dedicated group. I asked Brian if he would be involved in the preparation of the Fundraising Plan but didn't hear back from him, and have had to press on regardless. I think the Mowlem has huge potential, and this plan will hopefully demonstrate how Brian and the trustees could access some major and much needed funding that would help the Mowlem really come into its own. I will, of course, make the Fundraising Plan available to Brian and anyone else who would like a copy (when it's finished, mid Feb '08). Sorry for the huge number of words, am new to this blogging lark...

44 comments:

Steve Darrington said...

What a Brilliant Idea and Good Luck to you!
Should you require any input from me, please get in touch.
I am Steve Darrington, organiser of the Swanage Blues Festivals, see www.swanage-blues.org and www.bluesroots.org or email me on s.darrington@btopenworld.com

Anonymous said...

Good luck. The road to the Mowlem is strewn with the corpses of generations of people with good ideas for helping it.

nick storer said...

If British Brutalist architecture means that the architect didn't think it important that the lift stopped on they same floor as the toilets then I don't think that is something worth celebrating. The best thing that could happen would be that the catering and bar operations be offered to a company with some interest in the place.

Anonymous said...

What sort of interest did you have in mind? The company that runs the restaurant and bars pay their rent. Do you think they should pay for the upkeep of the building as well? I would imagine they are in a good position to demand a rent reduction on the grounds that their business is undermined by the failure of the Mowlem trust to look after the building. Trying to run a business that depends to an extent on the smartness of the appearance of the premises as a whole cannot be easy if you are surrounded by peeling paint and rust stained walls over which you have no control. This once had pretensions to being one of the town's leading restaurant.

The original justification for the inclusion of a restaurant, bar and shops into the design was that the rental income would cover the cost of running the place and enable the trustees to deliver their charitable services, i.e. the community room. That is why they are there. This strategy has failed, however, I will not hold my breath waiting for the trustees to admit this to the public. According to their report to the charity commission they now see their task as providing theatre facilities for amateur groups and schools despite the fact that this is outside the trust's defined objectives.

Anonymous said...

I just looked up their accounts at www.charity-commission.gov.uk and realised that the narrative section was identical each year with little more than the name of the xmas panto and the best grossing films changed. Every year it says that no 18 cert films are shown because experience has shown there is no audience for them. Precious few 15 cert films get past the booking officer either. One wonders how many decades ago that experience was gained if it ever really was. I

We are probably typical of many Swanage inhabitants who rarely go to the Mowlem because the prospect of sitting through puerile codswallop in uncomfortable seats does not attract. The seats will be better in few weeks but whether anything else will have changed is debatable.

nick storer said...

Perhaps I should shut up until someone provides me with the facts, but I just assumed the company that runs the restaurant and bars are responsible for the interior decorations in their business? Are they not responsible for the outdated menus and use of convenience foods? The lack of consumer orientation? The seedy dirty plastic seats outrside in the Summer? The tired hotel smell? The dirty carpet and ceilings? The Badger beer? Apologies if anything has changed since I was last there a month ago.
It would be nice to know how much rent they pay. I assume it is unrealisticly low.

Anonymous said...

Were you to go to the charity commission website you would know that the income from rent and lettings last financial year was £142,447 and 29 pence.

A year ago there was much trumpeting of the fact that the tenant was going to refurbish the restaurant. An innacurate version made the front page of the advertiser suggesting the whole building was to be done up.

I agree strongly about what is on the menu. What could be more pleasant on a warm summer evening than to sit outside with a plater of seafood, apparently its a plate of pie and chips as that is what they serve and who am I to question the commercial judgement of the establishment!

Steve Darrington said...

Message to K NUNNELEY

Is it too late for you to change the subject of your Fundraising Plan assigment from The Mowlem to the Swanage Blues Festivals?
I would love for somebody to do this so I could expand the festivals, and maybe put on a Country Music one, Comedy Festival, Fiddlers Convention, Antique Roadshow, the list is endless but my pocket isn't!

Anonymous said...

Does £142,447 include Theatre/cinema tickets?
Why is the profit on crisps and ice cream only 42%

Anonymous said...

Great idea Steve.

Anonymous said...

In the time it took to ask whether the rental income includes ticket sale the person who posted the question could have found the answer for themselves. Why ask for information you can find for yourself in a few seconds and then have to wait for an answer from someone else? I don't understand it.

Anonymous said...

box office receipts were £101,000 for 2003/4. They are not given for later years.

Anonymous said...

Does £142,447 include Theatre/cinema tickets?
So what is the income from rental and what is the income from sales?Please. Am i so obtuse?

Anonymous said...

The accounts do not make the distinction. The figure for receipts was given for one year only.

Its rather an artificial distinction. If someone rents the theatre for the evening and charges for admission this shows up as both rental and box office receipts. If they take it on the basis of a share of receipts the rental is the portion of the box office not passed on to them.

What would be interesting but is not given is a detailed breakdown with the shops and catering/bars shown seperately. The shops were about a hundred a week or slightly more last time one was vacant. Subtract that and the box office receipts and the bits and pieces from the total and you have a figure for catering and bars. What is it - 30 or 40 thousand sounds about right. Perhaps someone could contribute some figures on restaurant rents so we can see if that is reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you leave the Mowlem alone? They don't worry anybody else, do they?
The artistically-inclined in this town manage to put on all sorts of festivals and events without the Mowlem taking part.
It's obvious that the people in charge of the Mowlem have a hidden agenda that is nothing to do with educating the working man through the provision of library facilities!
You'd all be a lot better off (and happier) if you concentrated on doing something that you CAN have some control over and make work!
Failing that, go and sit on the beach and try to get the tide to co-operate with you...

Anonymous said...

So total receipts are £142447 and if we assume box office takings have remained the same we have a figure of £42447 for rent alone. That sounds ridiculously low. If the four shops only really generate £20K then the restaurant and bar are paying a incredibly low £22447. To put this in context the bar with a sea view on the ground floor should be worth about £25000 per annum, (compare Black Swan at £25500). The Restaurant and bar above should be worth £45000 at least, (compare the White Lotus at £135000 for the lease and £26000 a year rent, that equates to a rental only value of about £40000 without sea views or a cinema next door). The shops on the ground floor could generate up to £12K each with better tenants who were allowed more freedom to sell what they like. Rent reviews needed.

k nunneley said...

I must agree with the comments about the commercial lettings (i.e restaurant, shops, bars) - they aren't doing the organisation any favours, and though I don't know what kind of leases they have, it would undoubtedly be in the Mowlem's interests to have a major re-think. Although the trust currently relies on this revenue, they really need to examine new revenue streams that would actually chime with the Mowlem's declared mission.

For example, my dream scenario would be to re-model the ground floor, losing the shops and bar (a venue of this size doesn't need two bars), to create a large, light, family-friendly cafe/box office space. A company like Chococo, the fanstastic but tiny local chocolate factory, which really deserves a higher profile within the town, could be brought in to provide cafe catering (I have no idea whether or not they would want to, however!). They would gain the benefit of a new light, bright factory space that would be a visitor attraction in itself, providing employment, revenue and bringing people into the building. If not Chococo it could be Purbeck Ice Cream, Windy Cow cheese - there are so many fantastic local companies out there. As for who would pay, there are numerous regeneration grants available, not to mention a whole world of Corporate sponsorship to tap into.

A gallery space would be an essential addition to the building; there was once a lovely Radar exhibition at the now defunct Worth Matravers tea room, which could be given a permanent home. Or how about a gallery devoted to Swanage's famous stone carving industry, or seaside memorabilia (the Russell Coates Museum in Bournemouth has a great collection that sits in storage for want of a venue). Again there are various pots of money available for such schemes. In fact, the Arts Council is actively seeking to fund projects in Purbeck, which is an area currently under-funded nationally, but the Mowlem will need to do things very differently if it is to bag any of that cash. Anyway, I appear to be endlessly waffling again, so shall sign off...

k nunneley said...

(Forgot to say thank you to Steve Darrington for his suggestion - unfortunately your excellent organisation is not suitable for this particular assignment, but there might be something else coming up that might be of benefit to you, I shall keep you posted!)

Anonymous said...

Something like
http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk
linked to a gallery would be great, but more realistically for Swanage, allowing a couple of the ground floor units to become a really good fish and chip restaurant to service people on the beach and in the bar would create a really good rental income.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about the original comment about not modernising the theatre. The baby/bath water bit.
I think a modern makeover a bit like the Lighthouse in Poole or the De la Ware Pavillion:
http://www.dlwp.com
would be great. I'm just not sure the Mowlem can reach the critical mass to put on first rate performances? Reading earlier comments i would think the place could be made profitable enough to fund borrowing more than adequate to bring the facility into the 21C, without a load of hand outs.

k nunneley said...

The De la Warr Pavilion is a great example - though it is, I think, grade 1 listed so has been modernised within tight guidelines to retain its original character. You may be interested to know that there have been over 18 funding bodies involved in its renovation (for a list see http://www.dlwp.com/friend/supporters.htm).
These are costly projects, but I don't think there is anything wrong with 'handouts' - funding is there for projects like these, which genuinely enhance and enrich the lives of ordinary people and their communities.

Anonymous said...

Let's make sure The Mowlem doesn't suffer from "decades of neglect and damage"(like DLWP) by making it financially sound now.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't going to comment -- until I saw the comment saying "leave it alone, it does no harm'.. Exactly the point, it DOES do us all harm. It is a CHARITABLE trust meant to be run for the benefit of the town. And those in charge haven't been doing a good job for years (decades). Oh, granted, there's some enthusiastic am dram going on. But it could and should be more. It's OUR space. Time to get new management in: the only way to make a difference. The old guard have proved themselves incompetent. Despite trying so called makeovers, they just don't get it.

Steve Darrington said...

Memo to k nunneley

Thanks for your compliment. What you call my "excellent organisation" is in fact me, on my own with an old computer and a phone, spending my own benefit money all year round and hoping to get it back from donations.
That's why I need your help, rather than the jolly old Mowlem!
I look forward to hearing from you...

Anonymous said...

erm...just one question. How exactly are all you people who want to run the Mowlem planning to persuade the trustees to fall on their swords so you can take over? They are not elected, they are not accountable to anyone and as the only object of the charity is to make a room available which they do they are doing all that charity law requires of them. They do not have an open ended remit to do things for the good of Swanage. All they have to do is provide a reading room which they do.

Anonymous said...

This has turned into a sort of Fantasy Football exercise!

Spock said...

Spock to K Nunneley:

Logic dictates that in studying for a Masters you are a serious scholar and that your Fundraising Plan assigment is important to your success.
In order to complete a plan of this nature successfully you will require information that can only be provided by the Mowlem organisation.
This organisation is notoriously adept at not providing information of any kind.
Conclusion: your plan will be bereft of essential factual information, be based on conjecture, and will therefore be inferior and unsatisfactory.
Suggestion: save your career and change your subject matter.

Anonymous said...

Am I wrong in thinking you approached the trustees before discussing this in a public forum? Was their reaction favourable?

k nunneley said...

In response to '11.31pm's comment, the important thing to remember is that clearly the Mowlem trustees and staff work tirelessly to keep the organisation going and personally, far from wanting to 'take over' I would hope that in some small way my fundraising plan might help the existing administration to further their aims. They have, over the years, made several unsuccessful funding attempts, so the Trust obviously has aspirations to improve things.

As regards accountability, the Mowlem Trust is entirely accountable to the charities commission, and though I am not an expert in charity law there is something of a discrepancy between their official mission, as per the Charities Commission website, and what the Mowlem Trust actually does. I have no doubt that they want to do the right thing for Swanage, and I can only take my hat off to anyone who is able to run an arts organisation in a this difficult climate.

In response to Spock's comment, with regard to the fundraising plan, all the information I require is already in the public domain, courtesy of the Charity Commission. I could have picked an easier project but it wouldn't have been nearly so interesting!

Finally, I chose not to approach any trustees because I had already invited Brian Travers to comment. He didn't reply, and I was concerned that Brian might feel that I was 'going behind his back' by talking to the trustees instead. And to reiterate, all of the information discussed is already in the public domain. I hope others feel, as I do, that a bit of constructive debate can be useful and healthy.

Spock said...

Spock said:

It is a FACT that the Mowlem Trust is accountable to the Charities Commission.

It is your OPINION that there is something of a discrepancy between the Mowlem's official mission, as per the Charities Commission website, and what the Mowlem Trust actually does.

However it is a FACT that the Charities Commission is satisfied with the Mowlem situation and is not prepared to investigate.

It is your OPINION that the Trustees want to do the right thing for Swanage.

However, it is a FACT that the Trustees have no obligation towards Swanage, only towards the Mowlem.

CONCLUSION: the Trustees, backed up by the Charities Commission, see themselves as running the Mowlem successfully.

It is my OPINION that you're on a hiding to nothing, my son!

k nunneley said...

This is a purely a request for information, and not in any way intended as a controversial question! Can anyone tell me if there is a Reading Room at the Mowlem (other than the Community Room), and does the centre have a library or collection of books available for public use? I would be very grateful if anyone could let me know. Many thanks.

Steve Darrington said...

INVITATION

NAME: k nunneley
is cordially invited for a cup of tea or coffee
ON whenever you like
AT The Mowlem
RSVP s.darrington@btopenworld.com

Anonymous said...

There is no reading room and no library. What there is, you will find, however, is considerable resistance to well intentioned outsiders telling them how to run the place. Its their bat and ball basically.

k nunneley said...

Thank you for the info, and naturally I wouldn't dream of telling anyone how to run the place!

Anonymous said...

Allegedly the Hall & Woodhouse lease runs out later this year, probably September; the present manager has been trying to get the promised refurbishment done (by H&W I presume)but to no avail.
Reading between the lines might H&W be planning an exit?

Anonymous said...

You lot are funny! Has nobody thought to ask a trustee?

Peverilpen said...

Have the Trustees not bothered to comment. Publicly. Rather than anonymously. They could you know. But won't bother. They really don't give a ****.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Peverilpen, some of us Mowlem Trustees do give a **** !!!!!.

I am a very new trustee of a couple of months standing & I am trying to bring myself up to speed as quickly as possible.

If people want to know something about the buidling or the charity, come & ask us!

If you have some ideas, come & tell us !!!!!

Things aren't as they once were.

If you want to make a difference, do it, get involved, don't just whinge !!!

Ian Lomax
Mowlem Trustee
lomaxian@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

PS never heard of this website until today !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Actually that says an awful lot!

Anonymous said...

If The Rex can be bothered to put a listing in the national press (Guardian guide) why can't The Mowlem?

Anonymous said...

How about some public consultation to find out what the people of Swanage want. There seem to be two main areas that need to be covered, firstly how it is organised i.e. whether a trust dating back to when it was a Victorian working men's institute is such a good model that it cannot be bettered and secondly what use is made of the place.

Some public meetings would be a good start. There is a very nice room that is intended for things like this.

Anonymous said...

Going back to the original post. Is it public yet?

steve darrington said...

This post made on 22 April 2008

Hello K Nunneley,
You intended your Plan to be finished by mid-February, two months ago.
Have you managed to complete it yet? If so, may I see a copy please?
Thank you.
Steve Darrington
s.darrington@btopenworld.com