Portsmouth Theatre threatened with closure after NatWest's 'utter incompetence'

 

Arts Correspondent

When a Portsmouth theatre had its bank accounts accidentally shut down by NatWest in January, the management wrote it off to bad luck and looked forward to getting back to business without too much fuss. 

Yet two months on, the issues are still not fully resolved and the business interruption means the Groundlings Theatre is “on the brink” of closure, with problems with its suppliers and ticket sales plunging 90 per cent.

Artistic director Richard Stride revealed the theatre is to hold a fundraising event on Sunday as he seeks to cover the estimated £10,000 in lost revenues over the past two months, while he has unsuccessfully sought a loan as well as arts grants.

The financial state has become so parlous that the theatre currently cannot even afford to call out a plumber to mend a broken toilet, and there are fears that the gas may soon be cut off.

Mr Stride said: “We haven’t been able do the things we would normally do to keep the theatre running. Things began to spiral out of control and we’re now at the point where we’re threatened with closure.”

The problems at the 180-seat venue started on 13 January when Mr Stride was unable to access its accounts over the Internet. After days of fruitless attempts, NatWest informed the management that all four accounts had been closed and it was unable to withdraw money or pay its bills.

“The bank had made a huge error; they closed the accounts and couldn’t tell us how much money was in there. They’ve never explained how or why it occurred,” Mr Stride said.

“Initially we weren’t that annoyed as everyone makes mistakes. We didn’t realise the implications and what it would cost us.”

NatWest pledged to have the accounts fully up and running in three weeks but Mr Stride complained about the poor service he received and 10 weeks on “this is still continuing. The issue hasn’t been fully resolved whatever they say.”

The bank apologised for the error to Mr Stride, which is his stage name. The artistic director’s real name is Richard Hurdle.

A spokeswoman for NatWest said: “Mr Hurdle had access to funds throughout the temporary closure of his account, and we were in contact with him during this period. The account has since been reinstated.”

Mr Stride claims the bank initially offered to cover any losses but has instead only covered his daily phone calls to the branch and offered £500 in compensation, after initially offering £50.

The theatre, which has been running for four years, stages everything from Shakespeare and musicals to pantomime. Last year attendances had risen more than 50 per cent over 2012.

Yet this year has proved a nightmare. Management now has access to three of the four accounts, but the impact of the interruption of the past months has been devastating for the business.

The Groundlings has been unable to print marketing materials or brochures. Key services have also been withdrawn as a side effect of the closure of its accounts, with the cancellation of all its standing orders and direct debits.

Mr Stride said while many businesses he works with had reacted well, his theatre had also lost a lot of goodwill among companies for an issue that was not its own fault.

Ticket sales subsequently collapsed, with the theatre forced to cancel a series of shows, including recent children show Storybox. This weekend, The Pillow Maker will go ahead with fewer than 10 tickets sold.

“About 50 per cent of my time is dealing with the bank. I can’t do my normal job,” the artistic director said. “This process has taken an enormous amount of time and money.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas