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Theatre bosses say it will be ‘business as usual’ after missing out on Arts Council funding

Karen Simpson - director of Theatre Royal
Karen Simpson - director of Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds has missed out on £180,000 a year in Arts Council funding - despite having boosted its audience numbers and community work.

The country’s sole surviving regency playhouse sought the four-year grant from the council’s National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) pot but was unsuccessful.

The theatre, in Westgate Street, lost its NPO support in 2014 and has since relied on other funding sources while managing to increase its audiences by more than 30 per cent in the last three years.

It has also developed community projects and launched a successful Children’s Festival.

Karen Simpson, director of the theatre, said although she was ‘disappointed’ at the council’s decision, she knew it would have been ‘difficult’ to secure NPO support due to ‘shrinking public subsidy’.

She said it would be ‘business as usual’ for the theatre, which would continue to apply for Grants for Arts funding, administered by the Arts Council, for individual projects. They would also seek backing from established supporters including councils, businesses, individuals, charities and trusts.

Karen said: “It would have taken the burden away from having to constantly fund-raise. Providing we can articulate the case for each individual project I’ve no reason to think we’re not going to be successful. It’s just going to be more time consuming.

“We’ve been working really successfully over the last three years. I hope people do feel the programme is in a much stronger place and we will carry on with our work with the Children’s Festival, engaging children and families and working with more disadvantaged people. Knowing we’ve got an arts organisation that’s relatively self reliant puts us in a good place.”

Roger Quince, chairman of the theatre’s board, said: “It will not divert us from our strategic direction, producing more of our own work, bringing in more diverse performances and widening our audience base.”

An Arts Council spokesman said they valued the work of the theatre but competition for NPO funding was ‘very high’.

He added: “We will have discussions with the Theatre Royal about its future plans and explore other funding options that may be available.”


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