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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:56 GMT
Youth theatre 'faces closure'
Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell
Jamie Bell: Graduate of the troubled music theatre
The National Youth Music Theatre is calling on the government to help it stave off the threat of closure.

Since its establishment, in 1976, the institution has offered young people throughout the UK the chance of participating in musical theatre.

The financial crisis is so dire, it says, that it could have to close its doors as early as next month.

The youth theatre, whose former alumni include the actors Jude Law and Jamie Bell, says its financial crisis is continuing and longstanding, but is particularly acute at the moment.

It says the government is happy to offer moral support for its work, but "not prepared to spend any money on it".

Jude Law
Jude Law: Another National Youth Music Theatre big name

Manager Jon Bromwich said the government had never funded the youth theatre in its 25-year history, but that now was the time for it to start doing so.

He told BBC News Online: "We are delivering, very often directly, on the government's agenda of social and creative benefits."

About 1m had been pledged to the youth theatre's parent organisation, the National Foundation for Youth Music, he said.

This money had originally been scheduled to be available to draw on as long ago as May 2001, he added.

Mr Bromwich blamed internal government wrangling for the delay.

'Hand to mouth'

Half the sum had been pledged by the Department of Culture, on condition that the Department for Education, would match that figure, which it had declined to do, he said.

Meanwhile, the Arts Council was unwilling to step into the breach while the dispute continued, he said.

The theatre's plight has been particularly acute since December 1999, since which time its existence is said to have been "hand to mouth".

Prior to that date, for six years, it enjoyed financial backing from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to the tune of 250,000 a year.

The company costs about 500,000 a year to run, and now has no continuity of funding, according to Mr Bromwich.

"We literally plan from month to month," he said.

"Us and the other companies like us should receive some element of government support towards our core operating costs."

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