Annual General Meeting
The 2023 Annual General Meeting took place on April 25th, 7.30 pm.
Minutes of The Swan Theatre Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday, 3rd May 2022
Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Swan Theatre Company
held at the Swan Theatre, 138 Park Street, Yeovil on Tuesday 25 April 2023, starting
Present: James Kneller, Andy Taylor, Elaine Taylor, Graham House, Dick Bennett,
Geoff Kneller, Beryl Snadden, Robert Graydon, Ann Lee, David Hallett, Liz Stallard,
Sally Matthews, Alison Maynard-Griffin, Mike Stanley, Mark Payne, Andrew
Middleton, John Curry, Brian Williams, John Cooke, Pax Cooke, Claire Walford, Sheila
Driver, Ann Cook, Judith Baker, John Crabtree, Judith Payne, Andy Hastie, Richard
Jones, Lynne Bennett, Ed Butcher, Rachel Butcher, Patrick Knox, Joe Wainwright,
Apologies for absence were received from: Terry Skedgell. Olivia Spall, Roger
Chadbourne, Pauline Dagnall, Annetta Broughton, Vicky Hallett, Beryl Garton, Ann
Rigby, Tanya Ogden, Trisha Perry, Jim leFeuvre, Diane Law, Liz Holloway
1. The President, Beryl Snadden, opened the meeting by welcoming all present
and congratulating the membership on their hard work and success in all
aspects of the Company’s productions throughout the past year
2. Minutes of last year’s meeting had been circulated to all members and were
3. Functional reports
a. Artistic Manager – Robert Graydon presented his report, noting the
encouraging return of members wishing to direct plays and
confirming the continuing approach of his team to promote a diverse
range of productions
b. Marketing Manager – Adrian Harding presented his report, noting the
welcome return of audiences and early ticket sales, and reminding
members that early booking was now becoming more important if
they were to obtain tickets on favoured nights. He drew attention to
the opportunities presented by forthcoming double jubilee year of
c. Facilities Manager – James Kneller presented his report, commenting
in particular on improvements to the theatre over the past six years,
which had established a firm and secure environment for both
members and audiences
4. Alison Maynard-Griffin presented the annual accounts and responded to
a. The adoption of the accounts was proposed by Brian Williams,
seconded by James Kneller and approved unanimously.
b. The appointment of Teresa Rodber of Read Accountants as examiner
for the next financial year was proposed by Alison Maynard-Griffin,
seconded by Graham House and approved unanimously.
5. Mark Payne presented his Chairman’s review of the year, welcoming the
return of “reality” in the theatrical world, and noted the favourable financial
position of the company facing a future where we would continue to expect
the uncertainties of increasing costs, particularly in the field of energy. He
looked forward to a future for the Swan in which a diverse range of
productions would “challenge the creative juices” of the membership
6. Election of Officers and Committee Members. Andy Taylor, Returning
Officer, confirmed the reappointment of Mark Payne as Chairman and
Graham House as Secretary, and the election of Mike Stanley as Artistic
Manager and Dick Bennett as Facilities Manager, all unopposed. There was
no nomination for the post of Treasurer.
The meeting closed at 8.30pm
Full reports as presented to the meeting are annexed.
Secretary, Swan Theatre Company
ARTISTIC TEAM REPORT
It seems only recently that the Swan was forced to close our doors on the opening night of ‘Night
Must Fall’. And perhaps it comes as a surprise that this was over 3 years ago. Happily we were able
to open to the public again just over a year later and since then we have been able to return to our
regular programme of 6 in-house productions a year, without a single break. This represents a huge
achievement in terms of the effort, dedication and vision of all the many Swan members we need to
crack out a successful production. But it has not been without cost; our core membership
increasingly find themselves asked to do more. 6 shows a year is an ambitious objective and early on
in the easing of the COVID crisis I had my doubts about whether it was achievable in the longer term.
People were less confident in coming forward to volunteer, our audiences dwindled and were
reluctant to commit to buying their tickets early. This was not a situation peculiar to us; my trips to
visit other amateur groups in the county revealed very similar problems, as did the experiences of
our Little Theatre Guild friends nationwide. We were all a bit freaked out by what the pandemic put
us through. Priorities changed, we got out of the habit of going out, we reserved our funds for other
Happily, I believe we are now coming out of that difficult period and things are returning to normal.
This time last year we were pretty confident we had the remainder of our programme sorted for
2022, but anything beyond that was unsure. This year I am really pleased to be able to report that
we have at least 5 offerings on the table for 2024. This is truly an amazing leap forward and
something I was confident would happen when the World returned to something resembling
normality. Directors have been more enthusiastic in coming forward to head up productions, some
new faces and some old ones – and this is really good news. Our aim on the Artistic Team is, and
always has been, to offer as diverse a range of plays as our resources allow. We need plays that
challenge us and entertain our audiences. We need plays that will sell well and keep the money
flowing in and we need plays that will make people think and ensure our artistic programme reflects
what is happening in contemporary theatre. Our reputation allows us the luxury of doing this. Our
recent audience survey produced a healthy return in terms of numbers. This showed that people
care enough about us to respond. A lot like what we do, a lot felt we didn’t get the balance quite
right. If I look back on the last couple of years I might be persuaded to probably with the latter view.
However, I am confident that we have made the best choices for the Swan with the material we
have been offered. Directors have been thin on the ground and to keep the theatre open we
perhaps have not been able to present the variety of plays we would wish to in normal times. But
looking at the schedule of shows since our last AGM, the list is impressive – ‘Go Back for Murder’,
‘The Thrill of Love’, ‘The Unexpected Man’, ‘Let It Be Me, ‘Glee and Me’ and ‘The Hollow’. We have
also hosted 2 Civic Players productions and a Yeovil Youth Theatre production and numerous NT
Live, Yeovil Cinamateque and others.
Going forward this year, Adrian Harding’s original play ‘Stepping on My Shadow’ is in the final stages
of rehearsal, my production of ‘Crown Matrimonial’ is cast and will hopefully attract healthy
audiences who hook into this year’s royal theme. Liz Stallard will direct ‘A Brief History of Women’
by Alan Ayckbourn in September and we welcome back Geoff Kneller to direct Alan Bennett’s
‘Habeas Corpus’ in November. Later in July we will also have a series of classical music concerts, the
brainchild of Mike Stanley. This is a new venture for the Swan but one that will enhance our standing
as a venue for high quality entertainment in the world of local arts. Like many of us, I have a love of
classical music and am particularly enthusiastic about it. It will help to keep us fresh and relevant in a
competitive arena and I urge you to support it.
As I stand down from this role, I ask those of you who would like a go at directing to come forward
please. There are plenty of us who can help you, be it selecting a suitable play, organising your team
or helping you with the job of getting the best from your cast. To be at the helm of a Swan
production can seem daunting. It is a responsibility, certainly, but you will be supported through it
and few things can compare with the thrill of seeing your vision come to fruition on opening night. It
can be magical, so do give it some thought.
I wish to thank my team of Ann Cook, Sarah Ambrose, Rachel Butcher, Sarah Nias, Graham House,
Roger Mumford and Mike Stanley for their enthusiasm, their time, and the experience they have
brought to the Artistic Team. I wish whoever takes over this role the very best of luck and stand
ready to assist from the Wings if required.
Last year I reported that we were almost back to normal after the cautious
post-Covid year, and this year, I am delighted to report that normality has now
returned. We have seen good-sized audiences at all of our shows in the last
year, even the more adventurous ones. We are pleased about that, as they
were all excellent productions which attracted glowing praise from the
audience and critical acclaim from the experts.
The more obviously popular shows with high name recognition have achieved
sell-outs on most nights. Agatha Christie’s ‘The Hollow’ was a complete sell-out
two weeks before opening night, which was unprecedented in living memory
and left many potential audience members disappointed. Ticket sales for our
May production are already at 70%, with Thursday Night all but sold out, and
still two weeks to go until opening night. If you haven’t got your tickets yet for
your preferred night, please ensure that you do so now to avoid similar
disappointment. We are certain that ‘Crown Matrimonial’, in Coronation Year
followed by Ayckbourn’s ‘A Brief History of Women’ and Alan Bennett’s
‘Habeas Corpus’ will be similarly popular, so please remember to book early.
We haven’t seen a return to large group bookings yet, which is a shame, but
we seem to have attracted a lot more newcomers to the theatre which has
reduced our previous near-total dependence on just loyal Swan regulars. We
appreciate the support of our loyal followers, but they alone are not enough to
fill the theatre for six nights, and we need to be fishing in a much bigger pond.
Also, not all of our productions currently attract a Charity Night sponsor. This
demonstrates that local Charities are not always aware of a good source of
potential revenue and a good night out in return for minimal effort by
themselves. Certainly, the two Charities who shared the opening night of ‘The
Hollow’ did very well out of the initiative. So, if you know of Charities who
would like to generate income at absolutely no financial or reputational risk to
themselves, please put them in contact with us so that we can work together
for mutual benefit on future productions.
One very popular marketing initiative this year has been the Swan Season
Catalogue, listing all the Swan Live Productions, NT Live screenings (for 6
months), and even those of our partner organisations such as Cinematheque
and The Yeovil Civic Players. Our members seem to have welcomed having a
full year’s notice of our entertainment programme, so that they can plan to
attend well in advance. We intend to continue with this.
Our NT Live screenings have proved very popular, attracting a sizable audience,
many of whom are coming to The Swan for the first time, and are then being
encouraged to return for our Stage performances. ‘Prima Facie’ sold-out
completely, and several others, including ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘Jack
Absolute Flies Again’ and ‘Good’ came close to full capacity.
Fresh entertainment in the Swan Calendar now includes The Swan Music
festival in July. This will give us four days of top-quality live classical music
performances from a world-renowned chamber orchestra, The Cirrus Quartet,
at a fraction of the cost that one would expect to pay in the larger cities. We
are certain that a theatre-going audience will be excited to sample world-class
music at the Swan, and in reciprocation, Classical Music devotees may become
regular visitors to The Swan on Theatre nights. Details are on the flyers in the
If you hold strong feelings about how ‘The Swan’ promotes its image and
manages to spread its message more widely, please give some thought to
getting more closely involved. We are always on the look-out for new ideas to
design our posters, and to put these posters in shops, entertainment centres
and libraries close to where you live. Fresh initiatives are always welcome to
ensure that we don’t miss a chance to let people know who we are and what
we are offering, provided that they are constructive, practical and effective.
Promoting Swan Plays is no-longer a case of just hanging a banner across
Middle Street. If you can help, please let me know, tonight, or by emailing the
We have a great programme of entertainment in place for the rest of the year
and, looking further forward into the future, we are starting to plan for an
exciting 2026. That year, just two and a half years from now, marks the
Platinum Jubilee of the Yeovil Dramatic Society, and the Golden Jubilee of our
theatre, celebrating 50 years of live performances in this building. An old
derelict pub gave its name to the organisation which the YDS became, namely
The Swan Theatre Company.
We look forward to the coming year with confidence and optimism. We know
that you will enjoy our selection of plays and look forward to welcoming
everybody back into the theatre as often as they can to experience the superhigh standards of quality entertainment which we aspire to achieve.
Please do what you can to share the love and invite previous regulars and
newcomers to enjoy our drama as much as we all do.
Adrian Harding, Marketing Manager
After 6 years on committee, I have decided to step down as the Facilites Manager, so I look back not
just on the last year, but the last 6. I came to committee rather unexpectedly following the sudden
and sad passing of our dear friend Alison, so I was co-opted.
The place was in pretty good shape when I came into post, but as ever there are always things that
need doing. Over the recent years we have made a significant number of improvements and invested
quite a lot of money. In many of these cases we were able to take advantage of the Covid lockdown
that meant we had to close our doors for the first time ever, but also we were lucky in securing some
grants towards these costs.
We replaced the roof with a new GRP that is guaranteed for 30 years, we fitted a new Gas Heating
and Hot water system (thanks to Colin), we fitted a new ventilation system, we re-wired half the
building, replaced some of the floor in the Foyer and relayed the one in the Green Room, and we
also redecorated the Foyer and Bar. We have also replaced the stage rigging with winches, and then
in this last 12 months we replaced the tab track with a new electric system, we’ve done lots of little
maintenance jobs done and most recently we have made repairs to the ceiling over the stage and
improve the working lights here and in the workshop. And lastly you will have noticed that we have
made a start on refreshing the outside of the building and Graham and Annetta, supported by the
committee continue to evolve ideas on how to take this forward – and as I now step back I look
forward to seeing these come to life.
The Covid Period did give us the opportunity to get lots done which was great. but I am more pleased
that now these things can once again retreat into the shadows and our drama is once again front and
Of course most of this was not done by me – so as usual my main task tonight is to thank those
people that have helped, and in many cases lead these efforts. And again I thank them not just for
the last year, but the last 6. There are almost too many to name, but not quite so I have to thank
Dick, Jim Lefeuvre, Mike Robbins, Graham House, Mike Robbins, Annetta, Adrian Harding, Mark
Payne, Geoff Kneller, Mark Rudd, Mike Stanley and Mikey Foulerton, Ed Butcher and probably many
more that I have failed to mention. And I also want to thank many more people that have helped
with general cleaning and tidying – Judith, Mary Buckle and also Andrew Middleton who looks after
the bar, but also helps with many other ‘housekeeping’ tasks along the way.
I have always felt that we are extraordinarily lucky to own our own theatre outright, and we have this
wonderful facility and home. It is of course important to keep the place functional, safe and a
pleasant place to be, and that takes not just money but an awful lot of time. Without that time given
by a small cadre of volunteers then we would not have this theatre.
The good news for the Swan is that I hand over to Dick, so I know the place will be in good hands.
Please continue to support him as you have me and step forward to help. For me I will return to the
back benches (or the back row in this case) where I will continue to be involved and enjoy our