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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 17:40 GMT
Lloyd Webber's West End cash plea
Lord Lloyd-Webber
Lord Lloyd-Webber wants commercial venues to have access to grants
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has said commercial theatres cannot compete with the kind of grants being given out to subsidised venues.

He told the House of Lords theatres in London's West End could not get grants for refurbishment projects - even though they made very little in profit.

"We are not on a level playing field with the public sector," he said.

He said central London's theatres were crumbling while state-backed venues picked up grants to fund revamps.

"Of the four theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue, the entire profit generated by all of them since 1945 is less than was granted for the refurbishment of the Royal Court Theatre, which is in the public sector," he told question time in the Lords.

Lord Lloyd-Webber was backed up by Labour's Lord Harrison, who asked for tax concessions or lottery aid to help make 250m available to improve West End theatres.

Junior culture minister Lord McIntosh of Haringey said it was policy for lottery funds not to be granted to commercial buildings, apart from the subsidised theatre, unless there were exceptional circumstances such as helping the public learn about heritage.

But he welcomed a recent report by the Theatres Trust conservation body into the state of London's theatres, adding he would be meeting with the trust in January and would visit at least one of its venues.

"I understand that the Arts Council is committed to working closely with the Society of London Theatre and The Theatres Trust to explore funding options and discuss the issues," he added.

"I am personally committed to seeing whatever funding can be made available is made available," Lord McIntosh said.

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