Annual General Meeting

The 2024 AGM was held at the Swan on Tuesday 30 April 2024 at 7.30. 

Minutes of The Swan Theatre Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday, 30th April 2024

Present: Sarah Ambrose, Dick Bennett, Andrew Middleton, Alison Maynard-Griffin, Ann Cook, Mike Stanley, Di Law, Geoff Kneller, Sally Matthews, Sheila Driver, Mary Buckle, Vivienne Evans, Annetta Broughton, Andy Taylor, Elaine Taylor, Steve Poolman, Lynne Bennett, Tanya Ogden, Claire Walford, Beryl Snadden, Terry Skedgell, Patrick Knox, Andy Hastie, James Kneller, Mark Payne, Judith Payne, Ethan Meadowcroft-Taylor, Peter Carter-Brown, Annelise Carter-Brown, Graham House, Olivia Spall, Roger Chadbourne, Robert Brydges, Simon Thompson

Apologies for absence were received from: Rachel Butcher, Ed Butcher, Adrian Harding, Liz Stallard, Jim leFeuvre, Trisha Perry, Suzanne Webb, Beryl Garton, Peter Down, Robert Graydon, Joe Wainwright, Vicky Hallett, Jo Simpson, Brian Williams, Jean Kneller, Pauline White

  1. The President, Beryl Snadden, opened the meeting by welcoming all present and commenting on the great variety of successful activities taking place in the theatre. She also noted the sad loss this year of a significant older member Julie Riley, much missed not least for her cake!
  2. Minutes of last year’s meeting had been circulated to all members and were approved unanimously.
  3. Functional reports
    • Artistic Manager – In the absence of Robert Graydon, Mark Payne presented his report, full text attached
    • Marketing Manager – In the absence of Adrian Harding, Graham House presented his report, full text attached
    • Facilities Manager – Dick Bennett presented his report, full text attached
  4. Andrew Middleton presented the annual accounts and responded to questions.
    • The adoption of the accounts was proposed by Roger Chadbourne, seconded by Geoff Kneller, and approved unanimously.
    • The appointment of Teresa Rodber of Read Accountants as examiner for the next financial year was proposed by Andrew Middleton, seconded by Graham House and approved unanimously
  5. Mark Payne presented his Chairman’s review of the year, firstly thanking the committee for their support, and welcoming the increase in audience numbers and positive audience feedback for all types of production. He noted however that Swan productions account for less than half the income required to run and maintain the theatre and emphasised that other activities, including NT live, Cinemateque, outside lettings and bar income remained essential for continuing to fund the theatre. He pointed out that additional support was still required in areas such as housekeeping, wardrobe maintenance, gardening and, as ever, front of house, particularly coffee. He concluded by noting the 50th anniversary of the opening of the theatre was approaching (in 2026) and outlining proposals for improvements, particularly to audience facilities, which were at an early planning stage with the intention that they should be in place before the jubilee celebrations.
  6. Election of Officers and Committee Members. Steve Poolman, Returning Officer, confirmed the election of Mark Payne as Chairman, Sally Matthews as Secretary, Andrew Middleton as Treasurer, Rob Graydon as Artistic Manager, Adrian Harding as Marketing Manager, and Brian Williams as committee member, all unopposed.

The meeting closed at 8.30pm

Graham House

Secretary, Swan Theatre Company

May 2024


When I stepped down from this role this time last year I wasn’t expecting to be back here quite so soon. However, the Swan is nothing if unexpected and I am happy to be back. If I carry on in subsequent years it will be my aim to announce at least some of the plays we are likely to see produced the following year at this meeting. This is what we used to aim for, but Lockdown put paid to any longer-term planning. Thankfully, I believe that period of uncertainty may be behind us – and I will expand on that later in this report.

At this point last year we were in the final stages of rehearsing Adrian Harding’s original play, ‘Stepping on My Shadow’. This proved to be an excellent vehicle in terms of ticket sales and attracted a number of new active members. The icing on the cake for this show was the Rose Bowl Award for Best Creativity, which was very well deserved. Following this we presented ‘Crown Matrimonial’, ‘A Brief History of Women’, ‘Amadeus’, ‘Things I Know To Be True’ and ‘A Splinter of Ice’. It is worth noting that 2 of these productions were led by first time directors to the Swan, Liz Stallard and Will O’Neill. They deserve congratulations for their vision and we look forward to more from them in the future. In addition to our own productions, we have hosted 2 Civic Players shows, ‘Dracula’ and ‘A Comedy of Tenors’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ by the newly formed Entr’Acte Youth Company. We continue to hold regular NT Live and Yeovil Cinamateque screenings. In July we presented a series of classical music concerts, devised and directed by our own Mike Stanley. The auditorium acoustics suited the sound perfectly and it was pretty special to hear such beautiful chamber music performed by professional musicians on our stage and something we shall remember and hope might be repeated in the future. I believe special thanks are due to Mike, not only for his vision in bringing this new kind of performance to the Swan, but also for the work he has done in perfecting our Sound Design over many, many shows.

The Swan has been very successful on the local awards circuit this year. I have already touched on this and to expand – we received 4 nominations in the Rose Bowl Awards and 13 in the Somerset Fellowship of Drama Phoebe Rees Awards. Congratulations to all involved, but particularly to Best Actress Vivienne Evans, Best Supporting Actress Rachel Butcher and to the technical team supporting ‘The Hollow’ for the award of Best Creative Lighting.

So, to the present and the future. Currently well into rehearsals, our next production will be ‘Airswimming’. At the helm is Sarah Ambrose, no stranger to the Swan stage, but less often found in the director’s chair. You’ll have had a sneak preview of the set this evening, created by the talented Sian Spencer. Pretty impressive, I’d say. I’ve looked in on a number of rehearsals and it is looking very good and we are in for a definite treat in a couple of weeks time. In July we have a double bill of one act plays. ‘The Real Inspector Hound’, directed by Judith Payne and ‘A Handbag’ directed by Mark. Sadly, the planned production of ‘Death and the Maiden’ will no longer be going ahead, but in November we look forward to seeing first time director Dave King’s production of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.

You’ll be aware that earlier this year I sent out a calling notice asking directors to come forward with ideas for the 2025 season. I was particularly keen to hear from new and first- time directors. In the past few years it has been difficult to persuade volunteers to have a go – but this year the response could not have been more different. Currently we have an incredible 16 options on the table for next year. With so many options to choose from we clearly can’t give everyone a slot, but over the next few weeks I will be getting in touch to move things forward. With the exception of one show, I have delayed making any provisional decisions because until recently I was back in this post only as caretaker, so if you have made a submission and have heard nothing from me yet, please don’t be discouraged as there is still much work to do. However, I can give you a flavour of what might be on offer next year. We hope to see a return of William Shakespeare to the Swan stage in the form of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’; something I know would please a lot of our members and supporters. We are also looking at ‘Kindertransport’, ‘Sleuth’, ‘Duet for One’, ‘Racing Demon’ and ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’. Looking at the number of keen first timers, a plan is formulating in my mind to present a one act play festival in one of our slots next year. My thoughts are that this would give a larger number of new directors an opportunity to cut their teeth on something less challenging than and without the considerable responsibilities that go with managing a full-length production. One definite for next year will be ‘Terra Nova’, to be directed by Brian Williams. Brian was on standby last year with this play and we are pleased he will be presenting this dramatised account of Robert Scott’s 1911 expedition to the South Pole. And, of course, with this September’s slot having ecently become vacant, we shall be actively seeking a willing director to offer a replacement.

For the new season I shall be working with a fresh team of people, but I would like to thank my existing team of Ann Cook, Sarah Ambrose, Rachel Butcher, Sarah Nias, Graham House, Roger Mumford and Will O’Neill for their enthusiasm, their time, and the experience they have brought to the Artistic Team.

Robert Graydon

Swan Theatre AGM – Marketing Report, 30th April 2024

A year of high-quality, exceptionally varied plays has given us what we all wanted – great entertainment and near-full houses.

Our casts and crews are more than satisfied with a job well done, our audiences are delighted and our expert adjudicators from SFD Phoebe Rees and The Rose Bowl have been full of praise for our stage productions. Our NT Live screenings have increased in popularity since we started a few years ago. Thank you to Geoff and James Kneller for their original initiative which has grown from strength-to-strength. Nearly all of our NT Live offerings in the past year have attracted close to full capacity audiences, many visiting The Swan for the first time. ‘Nye’ in particular sold-out weeks before transmission.

So, the year has got off to a great start, and we trust that the remainder of the 2024 season will continue to delight our audiences. When one is responsible for generating content for our monthly Cue Lines newsletters, it’s a joy to be able to draw on a wealth of positive news to share with our membership.

Communication is a two-way street, so if you have constructive ideas about how The Swan promotes its image and could spread its message more widely, please give some thought to getting more closely involved. If you can help, please let me know by emailing the Swan. Similarly, if you have news stories which you feel will be of general interest to your fellow members, please share. I’ve always got room for good news

Now for some thank yous. I am eternally grateful to our talented Graphic Designers, Sheila Driver and Richard Jones, who can always be counted on for digging deep into their creativity to come up with eye-catching designs for the posters and banners. They have been joined this year by Mikey Foulerton who is another exceptionally creative talent, and we look forward to future contributions from him.

Thank you to Jim LeFeuvre, Pauline Dagnall and Ann Lee for the astonishing quality of their photography which fills our programmes, newsletters and Facebook posts

Thanks to Annetta Broughton for organising the distribution of posters. It’s great to see them in front windows or on noticeboards as we travel around the county, spreading the news, and helping to get that last pair of tickets sold……

Special thanks go to Ann Rigby who manages the Box Office so tirelessly and efficiently. She knows exactly who orders what tickets, why and when, and it is her ear to the ground and detailed analysis that helps us to understand what we are doing right, and what we can still improve.

Please keep supporting all the high-energy activity at The Swan, on-stage, back-stage and off-stage. Spread the word and share the love. Tell everyone you know how proud you are of what is achieved by a dedicated volunteer team and keep the auditorium full of people who will enjoy our drama as much as we all do.

Adrian Harding, Marketing Manager

FM Report for AGM – 30/04/24

WE have been working hard this year on various aspects of the building and facilities including a very useful working party in June which sorted out a lot of areas around the building but as ever identified more work to be done, so we will be organizing more events this year.

Regarding technical equipment, we have bought and installed a new sound desk with a greater capacity and more features to help address the fact that we are doing more advanced sound on shows nowadays.  We have had fibre broadband installed into the building and upgraded the internal internet cabling.  The facility for the audience to log in during show intervals was resulting in the card payment systems breaking down.  This is now history!

A team led by Jim LeFeuvre has done a lot of maintenance work on cabling and wiring around the building plus finalizing stage working lights and sorting out the system which powers the display screens on show nights.  They are also in the throes of installing auxiliary lighting bars in the wings areas.  We suffered damage to the stage parquet floor some years ago due to minor flooding.  The flooding was sorted but it left an area of the stage with an infill of chipboard.  Annetta has been sorting out the repair of the lost section so that we can go back to using the parquet where that would be appropriate for a play.  This should be done in the next few months when we don’t have a set on it.

Various bits of work have been done on the fabric of the building including minor repairs to the front elevation of the roof to address a leak in the ladies dressing room.  Regarding this part of the roof, we are aware that this is an area which has had little attention for many years if not decades.  We have sought advice from roofing companies regarding what we should be doing.  They are all advising that the roof should be re-felted and battened.  Whilst we aren’t having any problems at present, we don’t know what issues might be lurking there and think it could be sensible to future-proof this area while we have money in the bank to pay for it rather than risk a big bill at an inconvenient future time.  We will be looking into this in the coming weeks.

We identified some asbestos in the ceiling of the stage which was dealt with by a specialist company.

Work to be looking out for in the coming year include:-

  • Installation of the new lighting bars
  • Repair to the stage
  • Refurbishment of the front of the building in line with the end walls
  • Potentially reroofing of the front area
  • Potential major reorganization of the audience areas of the building, more about this from our esteemed Chairman in a moment.