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.”

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?