Funding axe for theatre

Murray Edwards, Managing Director of Wakefield's Theatre Royal.
Murray Edwards, Managing Director of Wakefield's Theatre Royal.

THEATRE Royal Wakefield has had its £150,000 a year in Arts Council funding cut – but £7.3m will be invested in arts organisations across the city from 2012.

Arts Council England revealed its new National Portfolio funding scheme for 2012-2015 on Wednesday.

But while some were winners – including the Hepworth Wakefield, which will get £900,000 a year – two previously regularly funded organisations, the theatre and Beam, will not receive any funding whatsoever in the light of a 15 per cent drop in Arts Council England’s (ACE) government funding.

Murray Edwards, executive director of the theatre, said ACE had judged its £147,000 a year bid to fund commissioned work and touring as “too risky”. It amounts to eight per cent of its income.

He said: “We are extremely disappointed. We don’t know if we are going to be able to continue with what we had planned, but we’ll have a major crack at raising the money, and we have a year to do it.

“I am respectful of the contribution the others make to our industry. However, the issue for me is a proper recognition of the value of our activity with the public of the district.”

Public arts organisation Beam had been receiving around £90,000 a year from ACE. Deputy director Stephen Dolman said he expected the cut would “change the shape” of Beam into a much more commercially sustainable business.

Community arts company Faceless will receive three times the amount of funding it did for this financial year, and The Art House will receive slightly more. Art House chief executive Anne Cunnigham said she was “extremely relieved” at the announcement.

And although Yorkshire Sculpture Park will be funded at around £1.3m annually – the highest Wakefield award – it represents a five per cent cut, despite being told it had submitted a ‘model application’.

YSP executive director Peter Murray said: “Although this will impact what we are able to deliver we will continue to strive to provide a vibrant and innovative programme alongside the important work we do with schools and the local community.”

Simon Wallis, director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said: “Now, more than ever, cultural investment is vital to the social and economic future of the region.”

A spokesman for Arts Council England said: “The Arts Council fully appreciates the importance of regional theatre and Beam’s contribution to art in public spaces, and the decision to not fund them was not taken lightly. However, the applications did not sufficiently meet our published goals and were not strong enough in terms of financial sustainability.”