Regional Theatre in Crisis, Says New ReportDate: 14 July 1998
The plight of Britain's regional theatres is highlighted this week with the publication of a research report from the National Campaign for the Arts. The report, 'Theatres in Crisis: the Plight of Regional Theatre', documents the effects of the decline in public funding for British producing theatres. Its release coincides with a debate today, 14 July 1998, in the House of Lords on 'The Revival of Provincial Theatre'.
According to the report, the value of the annual Arts Council grants to UK producing theatres has fallen by more than £6 million, or 13 per cent, in real terms since 1992/93. Over the past decade, there has been a cumulative total loss of £12 million in core funding for theatre in England. As a result, 22 English regional repertory theatres have deficits totalling over £10.3 million.
Theatres are reacting by cutting back - on in-house productions, cast sizes and employment of professional actors. At the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, for example, the number of productions are down by half over two years, while, at the Derby Playhouse, cast sizes have fallen by 42 per cent. At the same time, ticket prices have risen steeply, well beyond inflation. The average ticket price paid in England increased by 90 per cent in less than ten years and by 105 per cent in Scotland.
Theatre in regional Britain is made up of 69 producing theatres, working in repertory, and an equal number of receiving house theatres which stage productions brought in from outside. There are also a few specialist companies dedicated to areas such as new writing, children's and educational theatre.
The report concludes, 'This is the year in which the crisis point for regional theatres has unquestionably been reached.' Several theatres - such as the Greenwich Theatre - have already paid the ultimate price, closing due to lack of funding.
Jennifer Edwards, NCA director, adds, 'Unless the Government takes decisive action to remedy the years of neglect, it is no exaggeration to state that we face a real tragedy equal to anything fictional appearing on our stages.'
The NCA is an independent organisation, representing hundreds of arts organisations including most of the major producing theatres in the country. The report has been compiled from responses from the theatres concerned, the English regional arts boards and the national Arts Councils.