Much loved Ilford theatre faces ‘extremely challenging period’ as budget cuts loom

PUBLISHED: 11:29 26 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:58 26 October 2016

The Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford.

The Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford.


The performance of one of the borough’s most loved arts institutions is to be discussed by Redbridge Council tomorrow night.

The Kenneth More theatre in Oakfield Road, Ilford, has long faced a turbulent future of budget cuts and falling visitor numbers, but is still considered by many to be one of Redbridge’s hidden treasures.

A report detailing its performance this year will now go before the council’s external scrutiny committee.

Theatre manager Steven Day wrote the report, in which he claims the decline of Ilford town centre has played a part in the theatre’s struggles.

He told the Recorder: “There are many ways to improve the theatre’s public profile, but we would like to begin with proper signage throughout the town centre – the council does not seem to think this is a priority.

“With our existing finances, advertising and marketing are currently under review, but we need to increase awareness of the KMT and all of our events. This will then increase footfall but comes at a hefty price!”

It is not all bad news however, the theatre’s annual pantomime continues to go from strength to strength, with 54 per cent of tickets for this year’s production of Rapunzel sold or reserved – an 8pc increase on the same time last year.

The theatre’s 41st pantomime last year, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a record-breaker, making more than £180,000 with ticket sales of 92pc.

Mr Day said: “This is extremely positive for all of us – our overall financial position is heavily dependant each year on the pantomime.”

The Kenneth More’s income is also supplemented to the many dance and stage schools that hire its spaces, increasing footfall through the theatre and also improving its links with the local community.

Initial budgets for the theatre this year showed it would break even, but in actual fact new projections seem to suggest it will make a surplus of more than £54,000.

However, the council’s grant funding – £157,529 this year – will end in two years’ time, after which the theatre is expected to be entirely self-sustainable.

The report to Redbridge Council concludes: “We’re facing an extremely challenging period going forward. If the theatre is to remain financially viable it will need to continue to look at and implement all possible options of increasing income and reducing costs whilst maintaining its unique character.”

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