A THEATRE and arts centre has made redundant its three staff as it “did not have enough money to pay them”.

The start of the 2023 season at the Sterts Theatre near Liskeard is under question as the charity deals with what it’s described as a serious cash flow problem – but it has spoken to quell any rumours of the theatre closing.

Sterts says that volunteers are working extremely hard to get ready for a new season but that the date for reopening cannot at present be given.

In December, the centre director, who had been in post less than a year, and the theatre’s other paid members of staff were given notice.

Several of the Board of Trustees of Sterts had stepped down during the course of 2022, including the chair and the treasurer.

Peter Woodward, who was previously centre director for 12 years, has taken the helm as volunteer centre director in the interim.

Speaking about the challenges besetting the charity, he said: “Sterts is not closing. There is a serious cash flow problem which we are working hard to sort out. There are people who are owed money and they are mostly being patient.”

The uncertainty over the start to the season, says Sterts, is down to the fact that the outdoor theatre’s canopy is in need of replacement and that the insurance claim is taking longer than hoped.

The charity has been fundraising toward the new £500k canopy and supporting structure, essential work that needs to be done before the venue can reopen.

“We have kept the Charity Commission and Cornwall Council informed of our situation and they are supportive and in agreement with Sterts’ efforts,” said Peter.

“We have a number of new trustees, including a new chair and treasurer, all volunteers, and all fulfilling valuable functions. We thank all the volunteers who are rallying around at this challenging time.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees Nick Hart said that recovery from the coronavirus pandemic had been a factor in the financial problems.

“It’s traditional for the government to blame the pandemic for its poor economic performance. So I won’t, but recovery from the pandemic was certainly a factor in lower attendance as people took a while to regain their confidence in public engagements,” he said.

“Inflation also made the renewal of essential infrastructure more expensive than expected.”

There were other things in the mix too, he added, describing how “hypothetically a show heading to make a loss would cost more to cancel than to run”.

Essentially, said Nick, “our expenditure was more than our income.”

An Extraordinary General Meeting of the charity is set to be held soon where the way forward, currently under discussion by Trustees, should become clearer.

Meanwhile, there is still activity at the theatre in Upton Cross: Youth Drama classes have just begun again in the Studio, and there has been a “phenomenal response from the Sterts volunteer community” says Nick.

“Everytime I go over there I find someone painting, another gardening, and a dedicated team of volunteers staffing the office.”