Who Wants What And How To Pay For It

This post is about budgeting! I know, how boring right? WRONG. Budgeting underpins everything we do ever, and it’s been worrying me thinking about how to balance the books on a social enterprise, while being fair to everyone (including myself).

SO. I did an experiment. I wrote up a summary budget twice.

In one version, I started with my own wants as a theatre – having a decent sized space, a marketing budget, offering paid residencies, being paid myself, etc. And then I wrote the other side of the budget to make up that money – I decided fees, hiring conditions etc to reach this ideal amount of money.

Here’s what I got:

Price then Cost

In this budget, we’re paying a Theatre Manager the living wage full time, having 6 artists residencies with £500 each, and allocating £1k per year for attending conferences etc.

To balance that out, we are:

  • offering a 60/40 box office split
  • charging £200 for straight hires per night
  • doing a whole day straight hire for £300
  • charging £9ph for community hires and £10ph for rehearsal space
  • renting out 2 desk spaces at £100 per month each

I like this version because it allows for “good theatre things” – paid residencies, a fairly paid theatre manager, and a realistic budget for personal development. I don’t like it because its more commercial, is more financially limiting, and may be beyond the reach of Sheffield theatremakers.

In the second version, I started from what I think my customers want – both audiences and theatre-makers. I priced things as low as I thought could be reasonably expected, and then tried to work out what Hope in Hell could afford as a result.

Here’s what I got this time:


In this budget, we’re paying a Theatre Manager 4 days per week (though they will almost certainly need to work more in evenings and weekends) on minimum wage, and have no extras such as paid residencies and travel budgets.

To balance that out, we are:

  • offering a 70/30 box office split
  • doing straight hires at £150 per night
  • doing community hires at £7ph and rehearsal space at £8ph
  • renting out 2 desk spaces at £50 per month each

I like this version because it’s as affordable as it realistically can be, and I hope will be financially viable for Sheffield theatremakers. The lower cost desk space particularly appeals to me as I’m having difficulty finding this sort of thing myself! I don’t like this version because it demands that a Theatre Manager works 4 days per week only, which will probably be in shift work, and on minimum wage rather than living wage.

What do you think? How would you balance a budget like this? Should I be charging more, as in the first budget, or being as cheap as possible and sacrificing nice things, as in the second budget? Discuss!

Assumptions in both budgets:
  1. 9 nights box office split per month (3 x Fri-Sun) with 60% capacity
  2. 2 nights straight hire per month
  3. That Corporation Tax is 20% and our premises fall within the Small Business Allowance to escape Business Rates

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