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Region will lose half of its theatres within a year without support, venues warn

PUBLISHED: 18:56 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:56 11 June 2020

Norwich Theatre chief executive Stephen Crocker outside the Norwich Playhouse. Picture: Norwich Theatre

Norwich Theatre chief executive Stephen Crocker outside the Norwich Playhouse. Picture: Norwich Theatre

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The region’s teatres and other arts venues have united to make an urgent plea for help - warning half could be closed for good by this time next year.

Since concerts and other shows were curtailed in mid-March, 1,605 performances have been cancelled across Norfolk and Suffolk, with just 700 of these re-scheduled, resulting in financial crises for the venues.

With a potential loss of income of more than £15m forecast, 19 venues from the eastern region are calling on the government to intervene with financial support.

Among the venues to make the call are Norwich Theatre Royal, the Maddermarket and Norwich Arts Centre, along with St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth, the Fisher Theatre in Bungay and the Lowestoft Marina.

And an impact survey carried out by the New Anglia Culture Board (NACB) makes stark reading for music and theatre lovers - along with the hundreds of employees working in the cultural sector.

Helen Wilson, chairman of the NACB, said: “The cultural sector is a vital part of both the social and economic fabric of our region and our performance venues are at the heart of that.

“The interventions so far have been very important, but are clearly not enough. A strong cultural sector coming out of this crisis is critical to our region’s recovery and regrowth as a key contributor to the visitor economy sector, the second largest employment sector in the region.”

Across the two counties, the 19 venues provide hundreds of jobs and engage with in excess of a million people each year, but this has been severely curtailed by the pandemic.

While the government’s job retention scheme has provided a lifeline - with close to 700 people in the sector currently furloughed - the venues are urgently pleading for the government to offer further support for the entertainment sector as a whole.

Despite also being able to benefit from other government grants and business rates relief, the venues believe they will be faced with a £10.5m funding gap at the end of September.

And the starkest warning of all is that should venues remain closed for a prolonged period, 50pc of the region’s venues will likely be forced out of business by April 1, 2021.

Speaking on behalf of the 19 venues, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker said: “Our region’s venues are at the heart of life across Norfolk and Suffolk and make these counties the incredible places that they are - but the risk to their future is stark.

“What we do goes way beyond the act of staging performances or delivering activities, it is about bringing people together to share in an experience.

“In a post-coronavirus world when social distancing is a thing of the past, I cannot imagine something more important than this.

“It is clear we need further interventions and this comes at a cost, but the value of the role we play as we recover is inestimable.”

The venues have also warned that in the event of Christmas seasons not going ahead, 
one in eight face closure by New Year’s Day.

In a bid to combat this, they are calling both local and national government bodies to step in with specific support for the cultural sector, alongside nationwide initialive they are already taking advantage.

And this precarious position comes in spite of existing support they have received from members of the public, with £420,000 raised between the through individual donations.

A large amount of this sum also came thanks to ticket-holders who agreed to forgo refunds on the hundreds of cancelled shows in the past three months.

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The 19 venues involved in the joint appeal are:

n Dance East, Ipswich

n Diss Cornhall

n Eastern Angles Theatre Company, Ipswich

n Fisher Theatre, Bungay

n Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

n Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

n National Centre for Writing, Norwich

n New Wolsey Threatre, Ipswich

n Norwich Arts Centre

n Norwich Puppet Theatre

n Norwich Theatre Royal

n Quay Theatre, Sudbury

n Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft

n Sheringham Little Theatre

n Snape Maltings

n St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth

n The Garage, Norwich

n Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

n Wells Maltings.


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