Portsmouth theatre pushed to the brink as bank closes its accounts

ANGRY Groundlings Theatre Company director Richard Stride
ANGRY Groundlings Theatre Company director Richard Stride
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A CITY theatre could have faced closure after its bank accounts were closed in error.

The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, has missed out on about £10,000 in ticket sales after NatWest shut all four of its accounts leaving the company with no money.

ON STAGE The cast of Our Town, which was staged at the Groundlings theatre last year

ON STAGE The cast of Our Town, which was staged at the Groundlings theatre last year

Artistic director Richard Stride has said that the bank’s handling of the situation was poor and through the whole process, it hasn’t done anything right.

‘It has affected us and we might have even closed. But when I told NatWest that, they just shrugged it off like it doesn’t matter,’ he said.

‘But for a small business like us, missing out on £10,000 is a lot.’

He said: ‘Back in January, I went to use our online banking but I couldn’t get into the accounts. I thought it was just a technical error so left it.

‘But a few days later, it still wouldn’t work so I phoned the bank and they said the accounts had been closed.’

NatWest admitted the error to Mr Stride and apologised for the mix-up.

They said it would take three weeks to get the accounts reopened.

But, more than eight weeks later, one of the accounts still remains closed and the theatre has lost an estimated £10,000.

Mr Stride, who also uses the name Hurdle, said: ‘The bank’s reaction to the mistake has been poor and I feel like they don’t care because we are only a small business.

‘They have put me through to so many people I have lost count and the communication between head office and my main branch seems to be nonexistent.

‘I was told by NatWest’s head office I would be able to draw out money from inside a branch. When I went to do this, the branch said I couldn’t.

‘I was passed back and forth to so many people who didn’t really know what to do. The handling of the situation has been really disappointing.’

NatWest offered to pay £50 compensation but Mr Stride doesn’t think this is enough considering how much they have lost. ‘We have lost around 90 per cent of our bookings since January because we can’t afford to pay advertisers so none of our productions are being advertised,’ he added.

‘They don’t believe the bank has mucked us around and are point blank refusing to advertise for us. We cannot afford to print our leaflets either because all our money was in those accounts.

‘The £50 compensation offer was laughable and I don’t think it realises the damage it’s caused.’

Play readings and a number of small productions were cancelled while others had to be postponed.

Mr Stride said: ‘We held our James Bond murder mystery night this week and every year since we’ve done it, it has been a sell-out. But this year, we had 20 people show up which shows how heavily we have been hit.

‘Our advertisers wouldn’t run the adverts so we were left to our social media sites and posters in the theatre.’

A spokeswoman for NatWest said: ‘The bank has resolved this matter with Mr Hurdle (Stride) and apologised for any inconvenience caused. Mr Hurdle had access to funds throughout the temporary closure of his account and we were in contact with him during this period. The account has since been reinstated.’