Mareel wants help from ‘friends’

Shetland Arts is asking people to pay up to £500 a year through a new membership scheme – but its chairman says it is not “scrabbling about for money”.

Mareel’s Friends’ Scheme is a three-tier membership with prices ranging from £25 to £500 per annum.

For £25 punters can become a “friend” of Mareel – entitling them to a 10 per cent discount on popcorn, a behind the scenes quarterly newsletter and chances to win prizes.

For £250 people can be a “supporter” which entitles them to the friend benefits plus priority bookings for concerts in the main auditorium and their name on a supporters’ and patrons’ wall.

For another £250 customers are entitled to free hire of the green room – a rehearsal space – and invitations to exclusive events. They are known as “patrons”.

Money invested will be used to fund festivals, cinema screenings, exhibitions, events and wider arts development.
Shetland Arts chairman Danus Skene said it was the time to “broaden support”.

He said Shetland Arts was a social enterprise and a charity and while the scheme would help to raise funds, it was not “mega bucks” but “significant”.

Friends of Mareel is part of a “normalisation process”, said Mr Skene and following the difficulties in establishing the building, it was part of creating “a community around Shetland Arts”.

“Now we are through the woods we are now planning and looking ahead, trying to normalise how
we run things and organise our networks.”

Shetland Arts marketing officer Lisa Ward said the scheme had always been planned for Mareel and such membership schemes for theatres and other venues were standard in other areas. At the end of last year, it was felt Mareel had reached a point where it could offer such benefits, she said.

“Lots of people have been asking the whole time we have been up and running how they can help to support us. We have had a lot of requests for the friends scheme.”

Ms Ward added there has been a mixture in the uptake with, “friends” being more of the general public and supporters and patrons being “big vocal supporters” of the venue.

So far the scheme has been popular, said Ms Ward, although she said she did not expect those being able to pay £500 a year amounting to a huge pool of people.

She said the membership scheme did not make the venue elitist and it gave the community the chance to support Mareel as an asset.

Information about the scheme is on Mareel’s website and at the front desk of the venue. Ms Ward said they would be making more of a push with the scheme after a low-key start – to ensure it was operating properly.

She said she was hoping more people would get involved but was not able to comment on how many people have signed up so far.

Since the opening of Mareel there had been an ongoing disagreement between the arts agency and construction firm DITT. In November the dispute came to an end, thanks to an out of court settlement.

The battle between the two organisations followed delays in completing the £13.5 million cinema and arts venue. The settlement brought a stop to the threat of costly legal action at the Court of Session.

Mareel opened £1.5 million over budget in August 2012 – following an 18-month delay.

Last year Shetland Islands Council agreed a complicated £1.1 million lease with the arts agency. But SIC politicians made it clear they met their obligations to Mareel and would not give the organisation additional funding in relation to the building.

The Shetland Charitable Trust, which offers financial support to Shetland Arts, also said it would not provide extra funds. Shetland Arts is looking to sell the Kergord hatchery, which it owns, in order to bolster its cash reserves.


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