The Minack Theatre
Telephone: 01736 810 181
is a world famous open air theatre built into spectacular cliffs high above Porthcurno bay in Cornwall in the 1930s. From May to September each year there are performances Monday to Friday at 8pm, with some matinees at 2pm. Each week brings a new amateur or professional production, and on some days there are also children's activities and storytelling in the morning. When performances are not taking place, paying visitors can tour the visitor centre and use the Minack's compact cafe and souvenir shop. Parking is limited and the very narrow, steep road up the hill to the Minack is not suitable for buses and coaches and regularly features serious traffic jams and delays.
The visitor centre and exhibition are open year round, and the Minack's webcams also offer remote views of the stage, the surf in the bay in front of Pedn Vounder beach, and Treen Castle. Performances are only cancelled in severely bad weather, but visitors are advised to bring warm clothing as stiff sea breezes can cause much cooler temperatures even in summer. Seating is on grass or stone surfaced benches in the style of an amphitheatre and picnics are permitted.
The Minack Theatre is a UK registered charity number 271483, officially the Minack Theatre Trust, employing up to 30 people. In recent years the Minack has expanded its operations relentlessly, riding on the back of minimum wage employment and short shifts, steeply increased ticket prices, close-packed seating, added performances and activities and traffic, and wide publicity. Increases in the number of Minack performances and traffic have not been the subject of consultation with the local community, who seem not to figure in corporate calculations.
The Minack reported a profit of £540,000 or nearly 33% on turnover of £1,670,00 in their December 2014 filing with the Charity Commission, with profits in every year since 2007 and possibly before. March 2016 saw further profits of £288,855 reported on a 2015 turnover of £1,627,726, with changes to the financial reporting period possibly distorting downwards the reported figures for 2015. A further profit of £380,000 was reported for the period ending at the end of 2016, with actual figures for 2017 not published yet but expected in 2018. Based on an average of the preceding five years, one could conservatively estimate an expected profit of at least £340,600 for 2018, as visitor numbers are thought to have increased. Charity commission figures show that the Minack reported cash reserves of £3.47m at the end of 2015, reflecting accumulated profits.
How much cash does the Minack have in 2018?
Based on the above known Charity Commission figures:
£3.470,000 at end of 2015, plus:
£380,000 profit added at end of 2016 makes a total of £3,850,000, plus:
£340,000 low estimate for profits made in 2017
Gives a conservative estimated total cash reserves of £4,190,000 at the start of 2018.
The Minack Theatre now have over £4m in cash in the bank.
UK Charities are required by law to publish a Reserves Policy in their annual report to the Charity Commission, covering both insufficient and excess reserves. That annual report is public.
The full stated legal purpose of the Minack is to "TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC IN THE DRAMATIC AND OPERATIC ARTS TO FURTHER THE DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLIC APPRECIATION AND TASTE IN THE SAID ARTS." and the beneficiaries are given as "THE GENERAL PUBLIC / MANKIND ". A registered charity must state what its objects are, in other words, the purpose of its existence and the Minack's info is public at the Charity Commission. The Minack Theatre Trust's trustees are: CHARLES SINCLAIR, ELIZABETH ROMANA SMITH, MICHAEL ANTHONY CONBOYE, JOHN ILES, JEREMY SINCLAIR as publicly provided by the Charity Commission at charitycommission.gov.uk. The average age of this small group of trustees is apparently far above 70, with little expectation of fresh trustees or fresh thinking, though their annual report for 2016 did discreetly state (p. 6): "Following a skills audit, trustees are sought..."
Charity Commission guidance for trustees requires them to "make sure you are sufficiently informed, taking any advice you need" and "take account of all relevant factors you are aware of". At what point does close involvement of multiple family members in management positions become nepotism and need firm intervention to ensure management good practice? Are the trustees aware of and considering issues of traffic, pedestrian safety, community relations, staff relations, staff turnover, the living wage, failure to give staff the breaks to which they are legally entitled, cost of gagging orders on staff, filling posts without advertising them, quality of theatre companies engaged? Or do they just picnic and applaud the apparently glowing figures?
The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, St Levan, Penzance, Cornwall UK
Postcode: TR19 6JU
Anyone not aware of what can happen when a charity and its funds are closely controlled by one family should read about the Shelterbox case, which saw the founder of another worthy Cornwall charity removed and put on trial for fraud due to the way family members were involved in contracts.