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Hamish Glen, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Belgrade Theatre.

The Joys of Regional Theatre

Posted on 4 December 2012

It is a few days after the meeting hosted at the National Theatre and fronted by Danny Boyle to alert people and politicians about the dangers posed to the country’s regional producing theatre network from a pincer movement of cuts from central government, passed to the Arts Council of England, and huge cuts to their funding from local authorities, as they themselves struggle to cope with cuts in their funding. A matter of a few days later Newcastle announced it was cutting its support of local theatres including Northern Stage and Live Theatre entirely! This came as a huge shock for the industry as Newcastle has been one of the most successful cities in culturally led regeneration and economic development.

In Coventry we have, over the last months been involved in a major consultant led process which sought to wind up the three major cultural offers in the city.- the Herbert Gallery, the Transport Museum and The Belgrade Theatre and create a new single trust to make the savings needed by the city. To be fair to the city the aspiration was to make the savings in the backroom, while protecting the city’s cultural offer.

In the end it was decided that the Belgrade had too different an operating model and a two trust solution was proposed and accepted by the City Council, whereby the museums will become a single trust but the Belgrade Theatre would remain an independent trust; however this meant the theatre having to take a cut of 25% over three years, amounting to £250,000 in round numbers.

The decision in Newcastle and the cuts falling on theatres across the land, seem to me to put ACE in an impossible position in that they will not be able to replace lost local authority support but the theatres they fund (NPO’s) have agreements in place for the outcomes ACE expect theatres to deliver for their investment, which have become impossible for theatres to deliver as their funding base is eroded or removed. In this context with further cuts to ACE looming, ACE could be forced to remove their support from theatres that fail to meet the expectations of their Agreements, compounded by the loss of their local authority partners in the case of Newcastle, ACE might have to let go of gems like Northern Stage and Live Theatre entirely.

I finish this post on the day of the final model showing for the design of MARRIAGE by Gogol I’m directing in a new version by Laurie Slade that goes into rehearsal at the beginning of January – a brilliant design by Libby Watson that we can’t make work within the budget and so the tortuous journey of either cutting the set or somehow finding some money to deliver the best possible quality of work to audiences – but probably a bit of both.

Hamish Glen

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