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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 14:25 GMT
Theatres share in 25m windfall
Theatre graphic
Theatres across England have been boosted by a 25m finance package aimed at improving the quality of the arts.

The Arts Council of England announced that 194 organisations would benefit from the cash windfall.


This will enable theatre to reach ever wider audiences

Chris Smith
The money has been handed down from the government, which set aside an extra 100m funding last year to be spent over five years.

But while many theatres have received big boosts in funding, there has been bewilderment from those who have missed out.

Five major theatres have been handed nothing and some, like the Croydon Warehouse, could face closure.

Theatre review

The new round of grants are to be spent on projects starting in 2003/4, with about 75% of groups receiving a 30% increase.

A theatre review in 2000 carried out by the Arts Council to see where to spend the money highlighted the need to support new writing and productions.

The largest slice of money goes to London's Almeida Theatre, which sees its previous grant nearly doubled to 975,561.

It is considered a flagship theatre producing high-profile work and tours nationally and internationally.

The funding will support the theatre's ambitious programme, and help its return to newly refurbished premises in 2002.

'Good news'

Chris Smith
Chris Smith believes the arts have been under-funded for years
Culture Secretary Chris Smith said the funding announcement would benefit theatres, audiences and artists.

He said: "This is good news for theatre. By securing additional funding in the last spending review, I have been able to direct more money to one of our most under-resourced but valuable artistic assets.

He said the extra investment would have many wide ranging benefits, including:

  • allowing ticket prices to remain affordable
  • keeping quality high productions
  • enabling artistic experimentation
  • ensuring artsists a reasonable standard of living
  • allowing organisations to support new writing

"I am particularly pleased that money has been identified by the Arts Council to invest in organisations that work with young people, the socially disadvantaged and those from culturally diverse backgrounds.

"This will enable theatre to reach ever wider audiences."

Other successful projects were aimed at encouraging children, young people and ethnic minorities to experience theatre.

The Contact Theatre in Manchester benefited to the tune of an extra 356,700 - an increase of 91%.

Artistic director John E McGrath said: "We're delighted to see this investment in young people, emerging artists and new ideas.

"Contact is a meeting space for audiences, participants, performers, writers and artists from a range of cultures and backgrounds."

Touring productions

The Lake in Keswick has seen an increase of 233% on previous grants, receiving additional funding of 223,000.

The Arts Council saw a need to invest in touring theatre groups and productions, with 4.3m going to 85 companies.

English Touring Theatre is one of the big winners here, receiving an extra 195,155.

Artistic director Stephen Unwin said: "ETT is committed to touring productions of the highest possible standards, as well as delivering top quality education work at all levels.

"This substantial increase in our funding will allow us to achieve our ambitions."

Bewildered

The Theatre de Complicite is another group benefiting from this investment.

It has received an extra 113,529 funding to explore and develop international collaborations to create innovative work for English audiences.

The Croydon Warehouse Theatre Company is disappointed by missing out on extra cash as it believed it had fulfilled all the criteria set down.

"The quality of its productions has been reflected in the national press and its pioneering work in the discovering and promotion of new writers through its International Playwriting Festival (now in its 16th year) and its international partnerships have been celebrated locally, nationally and internationally," said a spokesman.

"It plays a unique role in the community in which it exists both functioning as a new writing fringe theatre and a regional venue.

"The Board of the Warehouse Theatre are bewildered by London Arts' recommendation that the theatre would not be a beneficiary of money from the theatre review."

See also:

01 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Arts Council to cut red tape
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Theatres: The agony and the ecstasy
28 Jun 99 | Entertainment
No more 'fossils' at the Arts Council
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