Installing five resident arts companies, appointing an Executive Director on a salary of up to £100,000 and even expanding into the pub next door all feature in proposals for a "fresh beginning" for the Opera House.
The suggested plan for the future is laid out in a 13-page document entitled 'Performing Arts Ecosystem of Jersey: Situation Analysis and Options Appraisal for Jersey Opera House', which cost £16,000 to produce.
It was authored by the Tom Fleming Creative Consultancy, which was also behind the recent arts strategy.
After analysing the current strengths and weaknesses of Jersey’s current performing arts scene, the report suggests that the Jersey Opera House will need to play a pivotal role in helping the island's performing arts scene to survive and thrive.
The release of the report, which was not publicised by Government, coincided with the Government’s pledge to allocate £11.5m in funding to fully restore the Opera House and gives some idea as to what this money could be used for.
Pictured: The level of maintenance required at the Opera House is greater than originally anticipated.
Subject to States Assembly approval, the money identified in the Government Plan for 2023 and 2024, will ensure that the restoration of the Grade 2 listed building includes not only emergency work essential to its reopening, but also important work which will ensure it remains open as Jersey’s flagship theatre for years to come.
The 'Performing Arts Ecosystem of Jersey’ report evaluates three possible routes forward for the overhaul of the Opera House:
Weighing up each of the three possible options against factors including business sustainability, talent development, audience development, and community and education resource, the report concludes that option three is preferred.
Despite being the most “complex” option, it is described as a “fresh beginning for the Jersey Opera House” with an “18-month period of capital refurbishment” which will include the “maximisation of space for rehearsal, workspace and flexible activity space” as well as “boosting the openness and accessibility of the building”.
The report outlines the next steps, which begins in December 2023 with a restructuring of the Opera House’s operational model to allow it to be managed as a leisure facility by the Government or as a heritage asset by Jersey Heritage.
The next step involves dissolving the existing Board and recruiting new members with a combination of on- and off-island expertise.
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel and Pierre Horsfall, current Chair of the Opera House Board.
The report then recommends hiring an Executive Director to lead on the vision for the new Opera House. It is described as a “senior post” with a salary of approximately £80,000 to £100,000, which will be “positioned to attract a talented individual with an impressive career trajectory poised to go the next level”.
The vision for the Opera House as a 'Creative Island Performing Arts Hub' involves a combination of both home-grown and visiting productions, mixing large scale ‘popular’ items with emerging innovative work.
The report also suggests having up to five “independent resident companies recruited to be based in the Opera House”.
It is also suggested that the café/bar area is “re-modelled as a space for co-working, events and pop-up activities which enhance the vitality of the building and generate new revenue”.
Longer-term plans suggest that the area around the theatre could be “re-engineered to elevate the Opera House at the heart of a new culture-led district for St. Helier”. It is suggested that a first step towards this could be to “re-model the neighbouring pub as an active facility within the Opera House”.
Pictured: The report suggests that neighbouring pub The Gloster Vaults could possibly be acquired by the Opera House.
The report also hopes that 2024 could see the beginning of a Jersey Performing Arts Festival. It is suggested that this would be a “multi-venue operation to include outdoor arts, with an aim to scale up performing arts development and connect it to a heritage and cultural tourism offer which has a strong arts element”.
It is hoped that these plans will all the Opera House to “combine the development of talent and audiences; support innovative new work as well as receive innovative incoming work; and facilitate opportunities for sector development to include education and skills, rehearsal, and presentation”.
You can read the full report here.
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The refurbishment is a huge subsidy and I have no doubt that the opera house will continue to need subsidising whatever brilliant new plans someone comes up with.