The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
21WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
Express and Star Editor Keith
Harrison congratulates Business
Person of the Year 2018, Chief
Executive and Artistic Director
The foundation stone was laid for Wolverhampton Grand
Theatre in June 1894. This year, it celebrates 125 years
as the focal point of live entertainment in the city of
Wolverhampton. Facing the removal of the six-figure annual grant
from the local authority, the recently appointed CEO, Adrian
Jackson, carved out a new business model for this independent
charitable trust which has now firmly secured its future survival.
Within months of my joining the Grand in 2015, the removal of the local authority
grant was confirmed. The impact of this funding cut would amount to £1.5 million
over five years, turning forecast breakevens from the current operating model into
unsustainable deficits. Dealing with this challenge was going to require not just one
strategy, but several.
I identified three key areas for immediate action: improving the theatre’s front-
of-house areas, including bars, the foyer and function rooms, to encourage both
greater usage and increased revenues; a full review of financial deals; and the
implementation of dynamic pricing practices. A committed board of trustees
supported a clear vision and worked in partnership with the executive team to
facilitate delivery in each of these areas. The buy-in of an enthusiastic staff team
with, in some cases, previously underutilised skills, was invaluable.
Twenty years on from our last refurbishment, we recognised that the Grand’s
bars and public areas needed to be brought into the 21st century. We agreed
upon a bold and complementary design. While this infrastructure investment
»Chief Executive and Artistic
Director: Adrian Jackson
»Opened in 1894
»Based on Lichfield Street,
»Services: Large-scale theatre
»No. of employees: 130
»On November 24, 1918, David
Lloyd George launched the
post-war general election
campaign in a speech at the
Grand Theatre, famously
asking “What is our task? To
make Britain a fit country for
heroes to live in.”
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
22 | WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE
would stimulate the development of
new corporate and other high-end
partnerships, we recognised that it
should not overlook core theatregoers
including families or discourage key
educational activities as a side effect.
This refurbishment was completed over
an intensive six-week period in summer
2016 and has proven to be extremely
successful. Net income per attendee
has risen from £0.67 to a current level
of £1.14 – a 70 per cent increase.
Meanwhile, the number of networking
and other business events in the newly
designed spaces we have introduced
has also grown dramatically from four in
2016 to over 30 in the past 12 months.
Moving forward apace
As a demonstrable result of this
refurbishment, we have seen the
number of Grand Theatre sponsors
and business club members increase
from six to 19 – more than a three-
fold increase in numbers and a six-fold
increase in value.
Our next step was to change the basis
on which touring productions visited.
We adopted a more robust approach
to contracting, adjusting standard
deals to improve the theatre’s share of
ticket revenues. As a result, they now
reflect the fact that the Grand is a well-
supported theatre with appreciative
audiences; consequently, producers
want to present their shows here.
Finally, the changes we made didn’t
prove to all be solely for our benefit
– we also introduced a significant
investment which would profit both
visiting producers and our venue.
We worked closely with American
experts TRG Arts to carry out
an extensive review of audience
behaviours. Two recommendations
followed: firstly, a change of banding
structure to increase income from the
most popular seats in the auditorium,
and secondly, an ongoing and
innovative pricing strategy which
would track and respond to audience
demand by performance. This allowed
us to deploy strong, upward pricing
strategies for certain seats, which
thus improved yields. Most people
are familiar with the concept of
dynamically priced inventory when
they experience prices for hotel rooms
Adrian Jackson conducts
the proms performance
celebrating the Grand’s
reopening following its
We adopted a
to improve the
23WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE 2019
or train tickets fluctuate. A similar
approach to theatre tickets, however,
has been slower to establish itself.
Our ongoing dynamic pricing
management scheme has proven also
to be successful, improving final gross
box office revenue by an average of
2.6 per cent for each production,
which is shared with the showrunner
or producer in question.
We now no longer require public
money to operate. As a charitable
trust, we can now confidently ensure
that the heart of the organisation lies
with the community it serves and the
audiences who engage with it – be
they toddlers enjoying a children’s
show or fans of visiting West End
musicals. The strategic changes we
have implemented will equip the
theatre for the future, better enabling
delivery of its charitable objectives.
Education and outreach have been
a driving force of this initiative,
which has expanded and developed
through apprentice schemes, local
projects, in-school performances and
direct associations with a range of
In 2017, we also devoted funds
to staging our own production of
, the first in-house offering
in over 25 years.
In addition to professional actors, the
show featured a community ensemble
and musicians from local brass bands.
Producing now forms an important
part of our future strategy.
The changes made have fundamentally
secured our position, making the
venue more attractive to audiences,
business partners and commercial
As a knock-on effect, we can also
proudly state that these improvements
have brought a wider benefit – the
more people engage with the theatre,
the more they actively engage with the
city’s broader economy.
As a charitable
trust, we can
ensure that the
heart of the
serves and the
engage with it
»Wolverhampton Independent Retail
Excellence Awards 2018
Best Hospitality and Leisure
»Express & Star Business Awards
Business Person of the Year 2018
»Black Country Chamber of
Commerce Awards 2017
Best Use of Social Media and
Young Person or Apprentice of
the Year (Libbie Doyle – Education
»Express & Star Business Awards 2018
Small to Medium Sized Business of
»WIRE Awards 2018
Community Contributor of the Year
“Arthur’s of the Grand” – the
newly refurbished dress circle bar
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.
In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.
We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.
With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.
And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.
As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.