Funding-cut threat to Eastern Angles’ Norfolk visits

A touring theatre company which regularly brings professional drama to rural Norfolk has warned that it may have to cut down on visits after losing its funding from the county council.

Eastern Angles will visit Aylsham and Loddon next month with its spring production, Up Out o' the Sea, which has already toured Sheringham, Hindolveston, New Buckenham, Downham Market, Frettenham, Garboldisham and Harleston.

But the company's artistic director, Ivan Cutting, says Norfolk County Council's (NCC) decision not to award them a grant this year will 'undoubtedly' affect future touring plans.

Ipswich-based Eastern Angles, which specialises in bringing professional drama with an East Anglian flavour to remote rural areas where residents live many miles from the nearest theatre, received �6,300 from Norfolk in 2010-2011.

Mari Martin, NCC's head of arts and events, said the cut was 'unavoidable' given the reduction in government funding and the rising cost and increased demand on services.

'At the moment we are still scratching our heads and working out what to do,' said Mr Cutting. 'There is a danger that we will be making fewer visits to Norfolk, but we don't want to stop coming.'

Other local authorities which had made grants, including Suffolk and Essex county councils, would expect full value for their money, he added. NCC had suggested that Eastern Angles could instead apply for small grant funding from the council but Mr Cutting said this was capped at �1,000 which would still leave a shortfall of over �5,000.

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'We will still continue to come into Norfolk, which we consider to be an important part of East Anglia, providing we get some of that smaller amount of money,' he said.

Ms Martin said NCC was continuing to invest in all 19 of the major Norfolk arts projects it funded last year and to support the larger arts organisations, such as the Norwich Theatre Royal and Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

'We also continue to recognise the benefits of regional touring theatre, which is why we have invited Eastern Angles to apply for small grants funding,' she added.

Mr Cutting said Eastern Angles would investigate other options, including working with partners in Norfolk, targeting projects more specifically and expanding its Copperfield Fund, which invited the public to make monthly donations to support the company's work.

Despite its Norfolk setback, the company, founded in 1982, is relieved and delighted at securing �230,000 pa from its biggest funder, the Arts Council, for three years from April 2012.

Eastern Angles' marketing officer Karen Goddard said other rural touring companies had lost 100pc of their money from the cash-strapped Arts Council which has stopped funding more than 200 organisations nationwide.

The company tours Norfolk every spring and is usually back in the county each October with a production celebrating Black History Month, although this would not be happening this year because of a reduction in its 2010-2011 Arts Council funding, said Ms Goddard.

* Up Out o' the Sea is at Aylsham Town Hall on May 18, and Hales Hall Barn, Loddon, on May 24 and 25. Ring 01473 211498 for more information or visit www.easternangles.co.uk

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