Creation’s future under threat
By Chris Walker

A SECOND summer of awful weather means the curtain could come down permanently on Oxfordshire’s largest theatre production company.

The Creation Theatre Company, which specialises in outdoor shows, said this week that it would close next year unless it could secure funding to purchase a covered area to protect audiences from the elements.

Takings are down by £140,000 this year compared with 2006 when the company last enjoyed decent summer weather.

The company has launched an appeal to raise at least £60,000 to buy a canopy, roof or tent so crowds will return to its performances in venues such as Oxford Castle and Headington Hill Park.

Creation producer and artistic director David Parrish said: “Despite reviews and customer feedback being overwhelmingly positive, this summer unfortunately has again seen a lack of sunshine, which has put many people off booking – to devastating effect.

“Unless we raise some substantial cash, upwards of £60,000, then even though we have got a plan for the future we’ll say ‘what’s the point?’ because we’re going to be carrying such a loss into 2009. We’ll do Christmas again, because it is really popular, but beyond it looks deeply, deeply dubious.

“The show goes on if we get the money, but we need £60,000 to stop ourselves from folding.”

The company, which was launched by Mr Parrish 13 years ago, has played to 302,000 people, but ticket sales are down by 8,500 this year from 24,500 in 2006.

It follows a poor 2007, when takings were down by £125,000.

If the company were to fold, six permanent office staff at the Headington-based company would lose their jobs and 75 freelance actors and backstage staff would need to look for other work.

Mr Parrish said: “It would be a terrible loss to the county if we were forced to close.”

The company became a charity 17 months ago and this year launched an appeal for £250,000 to buy a mirrored tent after surviving last summer thanks to a £80,000 donation from an anonymous benefactor.