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Ticket sales have not covered costs for Eden Court in Inverness

By Andrew Dixon

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Eden Court.
Eden Court.

Utility costs for Eden Court tripled last year, according to the Inverness arts venue’s latest accounts.

They were part of a general rise in costs for the charity, with overall ticket sales not rising as quickly as hoped.

Income from donations and legacies dropped for the year ended March 31, 2023, while income from charitable activities shot up but money from other trading activities fell.

These were factors as the business recorded total income for 2022/23 as £6,620,271, down from £6,693,834 for the year before. This came as the venue had its “most financially successful” pantomime on record.

For the same period, total expenditure increased from £6,658,826 to £7,509,542.

Its total funds carried forward dropped from £13,359,789 to £12,778,518.

The average number of employees increased from 134 in 2021/22 to 140 in 2022/23, while staff costs increased from £2,491,751 to £2,597,893.

A trustees report accompanying the firm’s latest accounts stated: “Pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic have been easing out during the year, but the context remains deeply different to pre-pandemic.

“Current economic pressures on patrons’ disposable income has resulted in ticket volumes failing to return to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as hoped. The notable exception being on more ‘feel-good’ work such as musicals, comedies and our winter pantomime.

Peter Pan was on stage at Eden Court between December 2022 and January 2023.
Peter Pan was on stage at Eden Court between December 2022 and January 2023.

“As Eden Court continues to support and promote a wide range of work, overall ticket volume has not been sufficient to cover our costs.

“Eden Court has also seen its general cost base increase, especially utility costs which have been multiplied by three compared to last year. To preserve the financial stability of Eden Court, a restructuring path aimed at reducing the cost base has been delivered at the end of 2022, along with decisions to generate greater income, such as price increases in some areas.

“Deals with visiting companies are usually signed up to a year in advance, meaning that decisions on price changes take a while to show their effect.

“Eden Court’s agreement with creative Scotland runs until march 31, 2025 and our revenue funding is £500,000 per annum. Highland Council funding for the year to March 31, 2024 is projected to remain at £300,000. The year ended march 31, 2023 contains £242,000 of additional funding from Creative Scotland – received in March 2022 and deferred to 2022/23.

“Trading through our bars, sales of confectionery, show merchandise and programmes have been in line with our expectations this year, but the operation of our kitchen/restaurant faced significant challenges, resulting in the decision to close the restaurant in December 2022.

“Our trading activities resulted in a surplus of £255,682. This is an increase of £30,000 compared to 2021/22 results, mainly due to 2022/23 not being impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

“In addition to prudent cost management, our financial strategy for the coming year involves the continued development of relationships with funders, both public organisations and individual philanthropists, in order to provide financial support towards delivery of our artistic and engagement programmes.

“In the meantime, reserves – both cash and unrestricted funds – will be applied to support the organisation through this phase in its development and if needed we will continue to do all we can to further reduce costs without impacting on our relationship with artists and audiences.”

Aiming to inspire people to discover and love the arts, Eden Court charges customers a so-called restoration levy on some, but not all, tickets. This levy is used to fund future development projects.

In November 2022, it launched its You Are Welcome campaign making the building part of the UK-wide Warm Spaces initiative in response to the cost-of-living crisis allowing people to spend time there with no pressure to make a purchase. It also included new pricing options including Pay It Forward tickets for studio classes where people could choose to pay more in order to fund spaces for other people. And it introduced a community table as a free, bookable space for community groups to meet.

Meanwhile, accounts for the charity’s trading through its catering facilities, plus sales of confectionery, merchandise and artworks, plus hosting meetings, conferences and other events – registered as Eden Court Trading – showed turnover increased from £897,709 in 2021/22 to £1,111,501 for the year after, while pre-tax profit rose from £225,322 to £255,682.

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