Burnley Light Opera Society have vowed that the show will go on for the amateur group, despite the revelation that it faces a crippling hike in charges to stage its popular productions.
Dedicated members at the society have been left reeling from the news that Burnley Leisure, which runs the Burnley Mechanics Theatre, is introducing greatly increased charges next year for the hire of the venue.
Burnley Leisure informed BLOS that the Mechanics has been a charity for four years, and has seen its council subsidy reduced while hire charges have remained the same for the last four years. In two years time the subsidy will be completely removed.
Society chairman Mr David Gill, who performed in BLOS’s first production of ‘Hello Dolly’ at the Mechanics in 1986, is now urging the Burnley public to support future shows as much as possible, starting with next month’s production of ‘Sweet Charity’.
David said: “The new charges that Burnley Leisure is introducing will mean around a 40% increase in two years. We are being charged around £7,000 to stage ‘Sweet Charity’ at the Mechanics, but next year’s show ‘The Sound of Music’ will cost around £8,500 and in 2020 it will be £10,000.
“We don’t feel there’s any justification to increase these charges to such an extent. However, we desperately want to continue to perform in Burnley. It would be a tragedy if Burnley Light Opera Society had to leave the town.”
David revealed how proud he was of the society’s history, since performing ‘Rose Marie’ at the old Victoria Theatre in Burnley in 1934, and how the group had given the opportunity over decades for amateur performers to perform to a professional standard.
He added: “I always say that the word ‘amateur’ does not appear in our name. Our productions are of a professional standard and are always well supported by the Burnley public, but we now need that support more than ever.
“Our November show week is one of the most profitable weeks of the year for the Burnley Mechanics so it would be sad for them to lose that.”
A spokesman for Burnley Leisure said: "Burnley Mechanics has now been a charity for four years. Over that period our hire charges have remained unchanged, despite increased costs.
"On top of that Burnley Mechanics Theatre is a beautiful, historic landmark building that, as a result of its age, inevitably needs ongoing investment in its upkeep.
"The Mechanics team has worked extremely hard to invest in growing the business and increasing the number of visitors to the building, thus enabling us to hold the prices for longer. Based on a recent survey of customers, the Mechanics has developed a great reputation for providing a high quality local offer and it's really valued.
"This hire fee increase is about us trying to be realistic in terms of what it costs us to open so that we can remain a good quality community resource in the future. We have met with all hirers and discussed the new charges, and discussed ways they may be able to reduce their fees.
"We've had a positive response from all our other community hirers when discussing fee changes. The Mechanics team work really closely with BLOS and have built what they believed were good relationships with members over the years. Sadly this communication with the newspaper is the first correspondence we've had from them since the meeting at the end of July."
‘Sweet Charity’ runs from Saturday, November 10th to Saturday, November 17th, with a 2-30pm matinee on the final day. To book tickets visit burnleymechanics.co.uk or call 01282 664400.