by Jez Bond
When I set up my first theatre company years ago, the paperwork associated with charity registration was more a formality than an examination process one needed to pass. It seems that times have changed and, as ever, being ‘new’ comes with a great number of hurdles and complications.
Whether talking to the council about energy and sustainability, to the police about security, to the insurance company about the alarm system or to the charity commission in order to be granted charitable status it seems that things now are much harder than they ever were. The argument that similar theatres elsewhere in London are operating perfectly well and legally without x,y and z has no affect – as they are in different boroughs and each borough has its own legislation. The argument that a theatre in the same borough is operating perfectly well and legally without x, y and z has no affect either – as that may have been approved in the past and we must comply with current procedures. When you have very little money and are trying to make it stretch, these things sadly eat away at your ability to operate. But so far we have kept the hounds at bay and have come up with creative responses to these cruel and often bureaucratic hurdles.
Today, a good few months after having submitted the extensive paperwork (signed and checked in various places by all the trustees), our charity registration has finally been approved. We will not receive our charity number for a few weeks while the application is processed but we have heard word from our case officer in the commission that they are granting us charitable status. Great news – and, to be honest, given the questions that were fired back at us after what I considered to be extensive, well thought out answers to the initial questions, I am relieved. Despite the existence of other countless other theatres that are charities, it seems that we – who are offering far more involvement than many of these companies in areas such as working with young people and the community – needed to single-handedly put forward an argument above and beyond the common sense as to exactly why the arts are ‘of public benefit’.
Another hurdle jumped – and yes I’m well aware that were this the 400 metres I’d be barely off the starting block.
Alright what’s next…..!?