Lifeline handout for Yarmouth theatre funded by reserves

St Georges Theatre on King Street in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

St Georges Theatre on King Street in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A £40,000 lifeline to Great Yarmouth's St George's Theatre is to be met from local authority reserves and not funded by toilet savings as had been suggested.

The full council met on Monday night and voted not to divert cash controversially cut from its public loo budget to the theatre which had requested the grant for the sixth year running.

Leader of the council Graham Plant said the 'one-off' payment was intended to help the theatre to firmly find its feet after its opening was delayed for two years, pushing back its business plan.

Powerful cabinet members had toyed with the idea of giving the £32,000 the council had saved on ten toilet blocks to the multi-million pound venue.

However Mr Plant said members decided on Monday that it was 'more sensible' to dip into reserves.

He said: 'The idea was put to cabinet by officers and the cabinet decided it might be better coming from reserves. I asked council to go with the decision to use the reserves rather than the savings which were made to help the council run a bit more efficiently.

'Reserves are public money that is un-allocated that we can use for emergencies that crop up during the year.

Most Read

'If St George's went down we would have a building sat there in the middle of town doing nothing so at the end of the day the council felt the building should be given a life-line.

'A huge condition was that they came up with a business plan by July and that the trust is made up of people that can help it along its way.

'Councillors felt that rather than put them under strain or put them in a position where they might not survive they should grant them the money.'

An arts, culture and heritage report presented to members said: 'St George's remains a vital cultural asset, integral to the revitalisation of the cultural offer and the regeneration of the Great Yarmouth Town Centre and King Street area.

'As well as an estimate that every theatre goer contributes £12 to the local economy, St George's has also brought back into use a significant cultural asset which has provided a venue for a wide range of entertainment and culture, civic occasions and community events. St George's requires ongoing intelligent support from the borough council.'

St George's Theatre closed in 2006 amid worries it was structurally unsafe. A new theatre trust was formed in 2010 and the building was re-opened in 2012 after a £7.45m transformation. The council offered an annual grant of £40,000 for the first five years of operation, to enable the trust to build a sustainable business model.

The annual grant ends in March 2016.

The report adds that there have been 'challenges' given the low levels of cultural participation within the borough.

Operations within the Pavilion Café are being reviewed and the trust has addressed a skills shortages within its board of trustees, it says.

Other cultural organisations to benefit from grant funding include Gorleston St Andrew's Festival (£1200), The Lydia Eva £(4000), The Time and Tide, Elizabethan House and Nelson Museums (£42,800), SeaChange Arts (£73,212), and the Out There Festival (£10,900).