The Box - 4 Year Plan Summary

Executive Summary

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour” (John Heywood, 1538)

The Box as a project began more than a decade ago when there was an imperative to find a long-term safe home for the Record Office and two other archives at risk, the South West Film and Television Archive and the South West Image Bank.

When the potential of the City Museum and Art Gallery site was fully understood, with the adjacent Central Library and St Luke’s Church, it unleashed a whole new concept for an integrated organisation that could take everything to a much higher level of national excellence, through building on PCMAG’s track-record of 116 years of delivery and its award of MPM status (2015 - 2018) but with a fresh perspective on the art of the possible.

The Box opens in April 2020 and the Business Plan outlines how it will become a project of national significance, as the flagship of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, and nurturing and sustaining excellence in the years that follow.

The plan has 4 phases:

  1. While building works are underway, the emphasis until October 19 is on ensuring the creation of  world-class gallery displays of our collections, securing artists and exhibitions that reflect The Box’s vision for great art, and conserving/cataloguing and digitising the different collections and archives into an integrated offer to be made available to the public. It is also a key time for building audiences and testing ideas, through the Museum/Box on Tour programme that reaches out to local communities.
  • From October 19 to March 20, the Record Office and other sites will close, with the focus on moving in the vast array of collections, soft testing the building and preparing for the opening to the public.
  • The first year of operation, April 20 to March 21 will be an exciting whirlwind of taking peer groups on tours, handling the media, reacting to public opinions, and adjusting operations depending on demand and profitability.
  • The final year of the four year plan, with a new CEO, will be about shaping the vision and staff responsibilities for taking The Box forward to yet another level and considering a possible move to an independent charitable organisation.

There are 5 key targets that drive this plan:

  • to open on time in April 2020, to a high quality of designs, both in the building and the galleries, within the available capital budget
  • to realise on opening an innovative, bold programme, a national moment of excellence that has resonance for Plymouth and the long-term reputation of The Box
  • to provide inspiration to the young and old (and everyone in-between). expanding horizons and fostering new aspirations
  • to husband available revenue resources to create a sustainable future for the organisation
  • to create confidence amongst stakeholders and peers in taking the next great steps forward after 2022



This document describes the operational business plan for The Box, Plymouth for the period 2018 - 2022. The Box is a £40m project which is being delivered by Plymouth City Council’s (PCC) Arts and Heritage Service, in partnership with the University of Plymouth (UoP), South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA) and the South West Image Bank (SWIB).  Located on the site of what used to be the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery (PCMAG), The Box will provide a new home and a single management structure not just for PCMAG, SWFTA and SWIB but also for the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. The Box institution will also be responsible for the management of the Historic Houses (Elizabethan House, Smeaton’s Tower and Merchant’s House) and being the City Council’s strategic lead for Arts and Heritage.

The Box, situated adjacent to the University of Plymouth and the Plymouth College of Art, will open in 2020 as a flagship project of the national Mayflower 400 commemorations. It will have a total floor area of 7,117m2  and a public, fully pedestrianised piazza of 4,260m2.

The Box is a unique bringing together of assets:

  1. of six different collections into one building, making them available for research and display to the public
  2. of talented people, including new and existing staff from the partner organisations, and the mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations that they generate e.g. the intellectual capital of the University of Plymouth will enable The Box to host international conferences and, through the establishment of a new MA in Archival Practice, to generate additional earned income
  3. of distinctive physical spaces, utilising for arts and cultural purposes:
  • the now vacant museum and art gallery and central library buildings
  • the new contemporary extension
  • St Luke’s church
  • a newly created public piazza to connect these spaces
  • the University’s adjacent spaces: the Peninsula Arts gallery, The House performing arts venue, the Jill Craigie cinema and the Robbins conference centre.

Compared with the previous MPM-funded Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, The Box offers:

  1. considerably expanded museum galleries (an increase from 4 to 8)
  2. considerably expanded contemporary arts spaces (an increase from 3 to 8)
  3. considerably expanded educational spaces
  4. considerably expanded commercial space
  5. a wealth of collections on which to draw inspiration
  6. unique integration of contemporary arts with the museum, archives and libraries sectors, as well as with tourism and education, thus reaching a wide range of new audiences
  7. leadership in the visual arts and museums sectors
  8. flagship project for a local authority which in times of austerity is investing significantly in culture, rather than reducing its support

Financial Plan

The anticipated annual turnover of The Box once it opens is approximately £4.3m, of which the Arts Council will be contributing 27%.

It is based on a highly detailed and flexible excel-based financial model, developed by Fourth Street, which details all of the key operational assumptions that drive both cost and revenue projections. These are all fully described and, where necessary, substantiated within the body of the Fourth Street Plan, see Appendix 10.

In addition, a Commercial Plan, looking at earned income sources, has been commissioned from The Seeking State which will be completed in May 2018.

Among the most important ‘baseline’ assumptions that drive this business plan are the following:

  • 250,000 visits in Year 1 (2020/2021), with a modest decrease in future years with stabilisation around 200,000 visits
  • Free general admission to The Box, with the exception of larger and ‘blockbuster’ temporary exhibitions and some special events
  • Retail to be managed in-house but a bistro café/bar and other outdoor food outlets on the piazza to be contracted out
  • The Box will open with approximately 55 staff, largely recruited from the current Arts and Heritage Service, but also advertising for new roles and budgeting for a pool of casual staff to assist with front of house at peak times.
  • Ongoing governance by PCC, with a view to possibly transitioning to a Trust structure in Year 3 (2022/2023)
  • Accordingly, the ‘Central Support Services’ provided through PCC – including, for example, Finance, Legal, IT, Human Resources, Corporate Landlord, etc. – will continue through Years 1 and 2 as in-kind support.
  • In parallel, it is anticipated any incoming Trust will need to build the capacity (in terms of both skills and peoplepower) to take independent responsibility for the whole of the operation by Year 5
  • In short, the baseline financial model is predicated on the assumption of a gradual but defined transition from Local Authority to independent Trust governance over the first 5 years of operation

Although there are some uncertainties with regards to future premises and operating costs, we have taken a very robust and considered approach to risk management. The key risks are around generating the commercial income and fundraising assumed in the plan. An annual contingency of £75,000 has been allowed for, as well as Lifecycle costs of £50,000 but other counteracting measures may need to be implemented in the autumn of 2020 when likely income and expenditure has become much clearer.

Vision, Mission, Values - A Transformational Project

Our Vision

The vision had initially been developed in 2013 through a series of workshops, in association with Colliers International, which included a draft set of concepts and key traits. The vision has been refined and refreshed and is now articulated as:

“The Box will put heritage and arts at the heart of our city, transforming people’s lives, creating a place and experience to share our rich and diverse collections and their stories with the world.

“It will bring together at-risk archives, film and artefacts into a sustainable new home. It will be the best of the new and the historic – creating an international cultural and learning destination for excellent arts, culture and creativity in Britain’s Ocean City.

“Acting as a creative catalyst, it will provide innovative and exciting platforms and opportunities for contemporary artists and makers to develop their talent and present their work to our diverse audiences.

“More than a building, it will create a new infrastructure transforming the way collections are managed and interpreted, putting people at its heart, creating active participants. It will connect people with their world-class heritage, building pride and confidence. A seamless blend of technology and tradition will create an exceptional, immersive and fun environment.

“Walking in the footsteps of Drake, Reynolds, Scott and Astor, our project will communicate the power of the city's collections to reposition Plymouth's role in history and history's role in Plymouth.”

Our Mission

To redefine the collections-based institution for the 21st century, expanding its horizons from local to global, placing collections and artists at its core.

To integrate the curatorial, learning and social functions of the museum to reimagine its purpose, offer powerful visitor experiences and strengthen connections with audiences and diverse communities locally and globally.

To embed contemporary visual arts into the fabric, policies, programmes, and collections, through working with artists to unlock and develop the creative potential of the city’s collections.

To deliver an enterprise agenda that earns income and raises funds for the continual viability of the organisation and its core programme.

The Box will innovate and offer fresh perspectives on histories, narratives and contemporary life to:

  • Reinvigorate, develop and animate the collections
  • Support creative ambition in the visual arts sector
  • Create opportunities for contemporary artists and makers
  • Create powerful visitor experiences
  • Strengthen connections with diverse communities locally and globally
  • Provide innovative and creative audience engagement.

Our Values:

  • WONDROUS, Awesome, Inspiring, Memorable, Epic   

A mouth-watering world of discovery under one roof. Where wonders never cease. Epic encounters that bring saucers to your eyes and make you want to come back for more. Where the Greatest Explorer is You.

  • CONFIDENT, Proud, Optimistic, Outward-looking     

Where Plymouth stands proud in the region, nationally and internationally, looking out beyond its horizon line.

  • FORWARD-LOOKING, Connected

By understanding our past we can shape the future. We are ready to lead change and make a difference. The Box will provide cultural leadership for archives, museums and the visual arts, through strong strategic partnerships and pioneering programmes. A Hub and Spoke approach is at the heart of everything we do.

  • QUALITY. Sophisticated, Intelligent, Smart        

We pay people the compliment of intelligence. The Box is driven by the depth of its research, the quality of its galleries and the creativity of its programmes.

  • SURPRISING, Unexpected, Unconventional          

Plymouth is a Surprising Place. So is The Box. What’s at The Box? Expect the Unexpected and Prepare to be Amazed.

  • FUN, Playful, Engaging, Adventurous, Accessible

By creating playful, quirky experiences, by having fun, we excite the curiosity and energy of our visitors who, online and by word-of-mouth, will become our best ambassadors.