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Community-run venue aims to keep building on success
5:52pm Monday 2nd September 2013 in News
A CHARITY which runs the largest venue in Hambleton District says it has high hopes for its future after overcoming a range of hurdles during its first year.
The trustees of Hambleton Forum, in Northallerton, which Hambleton District Council handed the management of to a group of volunteers last August, said after a slow start both audiences attending events and the number of clubs using it for meetings had soared.
The group, awarded a start-up grant of £70,000 and a further £22,000 to invest in cinema equipment from the council, as well as £8,000 from Creative England's Film Culture Fund to develop the cinema, said the rise in users had enabled it to balance the books.
Its chairman, Anne Wall, said after taking over the venue, it became apparent that many local residents had been unaware of the Forum.
She said after launching a website and box office system, appointing a new manager, running a concerted drive to extend the scope and number of the venue’s events and efforts to market its facilities, the Forum had the ability to attract visitors from a wide area.
Mrs Wall said: “We always knew we would have to gradually build over the first year and it has gone better than expected.
“We are almost getting to the stage where we are saying to people we can’t fit you in at the moment, which is a nice problem to have.
“The success of the first year has been with the development of the cinema, so we are able to say they don’t need to go to Teesside to see films, and being able to stream in National Theatre Live, which have both got new audiences in.”
To build visitor numbers, the trustees are hoping to increase the range of groups, such as the University of the Third Age and boxing and dancing clubs, that use the venue, as well as develop the use of other rooms in the building.
The venue, which is run by about 20 volunteers and a small paid staff, has a capacity of 350 in its main auditorium and is preparing to host events ranging from an evening with its patron, mountaineer A lan Hinkes, on November 2 to a Last Night Of The Proms on September 14.
It is aiming to follow upcoming performances by comedians Mark Thomas and Jo Caulfield by launching regular comedy nights.
Mrs Wall said: “The Forum is not just about the arts, it is a centre for the community to do anything they want to, with, for example, the ancillary hall being ideal for parties.
“The whole ethos behind us is to get a balanced programme to attract as many people as possible.”
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