BIC and leisure centres operator is back in profit after Covid losses

A James Blunt concert was the first full capacity event at the BIC since Covid lockdowns <i>(Image: Daily Echo)</i>
A James Blunt concert was the first full capacity event at the BIC since Covid lockdowns (Image: Daily Echo)

THE operator of Bournemouth’s council-owned leisure and entertainment venues is profitable again after its £2.5million loss in the wake of Covid.

BH Live – which runs the BIC, the Pavilion and leisure centres such as Littledown, Pelhams and Stokewood – turned a profit of £500,684 in the year ending March 31 this year.

Martin Kimberley, chair of the social enterprise organisation, said in its trustees’ report: “BH Live reported a profit for he year of £500,684 as we began to recover from the effects of Covid-19."

The Bournemouth-based organisation also runs venues in Portsmouth as well as Croydon’s Fairfield Halls.

It made redundancies in the wake of Covid and took millions in government aid – including a £2.5m cultural recovery grant, a £5m Coronavirus business interruption loan, business rates reductions, VAT deferral and other grants.

Vaccination centres were based at the BIC and Pavilion at the height of the Covid emergency.

The first full capacity event at the BIC since March 2020 was a James Blunt concert at the BIC in July 2021. Cliff Richard, Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, JLS, Simply Red and Stormzy also later played to full houses.

The BIC had 31,000 visitors to its ice rink last winter, almost 5,000 more than budgeted for.

The Pavilion was slower to recover "owing to nature of the performances hosted and their reliance on multiple venue tours", the report said.

Successes for the Pavilion included the Drifters, That’ll Be the Day, Level 42, Fisherman’s Friends, Sarah Millican and We Will Rock You!, while its panto managed a full run in 2021-22 despite the spread of the omicron variant of Covid.

Leisure centres reopened in April 2021, with capacity limits in place until that July.

Membership numbers across the organisation’s centres grew from 18,359 to 23,520 in 12 months.

However, the Queens Park leisure centre has remained closed, with the majority of members using other BH Live gyms.

The organisation’s wage bill for the year was £9.39m, while the average number of employees dropped to 1,325 from 1,517 the year before.

The report said BH Live’s reserves – which were run down to just £1 during the pandemic – were now back up to £501,000.

It paid back £2m of its £5m Covid loan in April this year.

“Looking forward to 2022/23 and beyond, the BH Live board and senior management team are confident that the business will continue its recovery from the pandemic,” the report said.