A team of people working for free have been credited with turning around the debt-saddled Quay Theatre in Sudbury.
The riverside theatre, which has been running for more than 30 years, has seen its debt reduce from more than £250,000 to under £100,000, after embarking on a programme of job cuts and building a team of 50 volunteers.
Bryn Hurren, who is chairman of the theatre’s board of trustees, said: “We are indebted to our loyal and hard-working volunteers – we could not have done it without them.
“We only employ six part-timers, equivalent to around four-and-a-half full-time posts, and the rest of the roles are done by volunteers who do lots of vital work like front-of-house roles and admin. We estimate they contribute 5,900 hours a year, equivalent to three full-time roles.
“We still need more, though, and would be happy to hear from people who would like to help once a fortnight in the box office or on reception.”
He said over the last three years, in an effort to pay-off its debt, the board had concentrated on better programming and consolidated some little-used services.
“Showing a less well-known film is not a winner and, at £80 a time, only having three people turn up is not sustainable,” he said.
“So we had to take a decision about the cinema manager’s role, which has been made redundant, although I should stress that the cinema club is still being run by Simon Frampton.
“We are going to be showing the more popular films and are continuing to explore opportunities in that area in the future.
“The Quay has come a long way in the last three years and we are very optimistic about its future. It is a vibrant community resource and one that needs to be supported by everyone to ensure its success in the future.
“We hope people will enjoy the programme for 2014.”
The facility needs £75,000 a year to keep afloat and gets a total of £45,000 in grants from Sudbury Town Council and Babergh District Council, with Quay fundraisers having to find the rest for the year.
Quay co-ordinator and board director Nicki Murphy, who has been involved with the theatre for nearly 24 years, said many people had their first experience of the theatre at the Quay.
“It’s often their first experience of live theatre and they never, ever forget it,” she said.
This year, Sudbury Dramatic Society is performing Jack and the Beanstalk at the Quay, running from December 13 to 29.