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UK’s leading independent regional theatres unite to lobby for Government’s support

Norwich Theatre joins forces with Birmingham Hippodrome, The Marlowe Theatre, Newcastle Theatre Royal, and Mayflower Theatre Southampton.


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Norwich Theatre has joined with Birmingham Hippodrome, The Marlowe Theatre, Newcastle Theatre Royal, and Mayflower Theatre Southampton to call upon the Government/Arts Council England for an emergency funding package in order to recover from closure due to Covid-19.

Run as independent charities with no regular funding support from Arts Council England (ACE), the five large-scale regional theatre venues have seen a loss of 96% of their income since they were asked to close their doors in March. This is the equivalent loss of just under £1million for each month of closure.

As the performing arts industry face an open-ended period of closure, we have issued an urgent appeal to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE) asking for emergency funding equivalent to the Emergency Response Fund made available by Arts Council England to their National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) in order to help them navigate this crisis.

With a combined age of over 600 years, the five venues present a wide range of quality artistic work from both subsidised and commercial organisations and play a crucial role in sustaining a healthy touring ecology across the UK. They are vital to the regular touring circuits of major NPO companies including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Dance Consortium, Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera, Rambert, Glyndebourne and many others. In 2019 the Big Five collectively facilitated the generation of £18.3million in gross box office income for productions presented in their venues by ACE National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). This represents collective reach of this work to 491,000 audience members and a collective total of 453 days across the five stages.

Every year, Norwich Theatre contributes around £40 million to the local economy.

With a commitment to new work and community engagement, each theatre also delivers a rich programme of studio performances, artist development and community and education work. Last year they collectively invested just under £1.2m of their own funds to deliver over 9,000 events reaching approximately 585,000 people.

In 2019, Norwich Theatre was awarded the status of Theatre of Sanctuary in recognition for its work to become a more inclusive and welcoming space for the whole community. Since 2017 its flagship and award-winning ‘Creative Matters’ community participation programme has seen extensive programmes of work across the whole of Norfolk using creativity to work with hundreds of local partners on issues including Mental Health, Homelessness, Black British Identity and Dementia.

So far the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has provided much needed support through the crisis, however due to the scale of operations, lack of annual public subsidy and higher reliance on ticket sales and self-generated income, the five venues are in desperate need of extra funding if they are to fully recover.

Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Chief Executive said, “As a venue, we are falling through the cracks of the emergency funding intervention and packages announced by ACE – a majority of this funding will go to National Portfolio Organisations. To put it simply, we need a lifeboat to ride the storm of this crisis. We give on average 25% of our programme to the regular touring NPO companies including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Dance Consortium, Northern Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Rambert, to name just a few. In presenting these companies we support them to almost a quarter of a million pounds each year in lower financial retention and technical support. With pressures to drive ongoing annual cost savings it is sad to say that my commercial head will have to rule over my artistic heart. This will erode the healthy touring ecology of ACE-funded work.”