Theatres Named for Young People Tickets SchemeDate: 17 December 2008
Arts Council England (ACE) today announced the more than 200 venues across the country that have been selected to take part in the government’s pilot scheme to give away free theatre tickets to young people (See News, 23 Sep 2008).
Amongst the successful London applications was a consortium of 12 of the capital’s leading Off-West End producing houses which, brought together in collaboration with Audiences London, were awarded a grant of £300,000. The consortium comprises the Almeida, Bush, Greenwich, Hampstead, Royal Court, Soho and Tricyce theatres as well as Battersea Arts Centre, the Donmar Warehouse, the Lyric Hammersmith, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Young Vic.
The scheme, which will be given a title in the new year, goes live on 16 February 2009 with a week of special activities at the participating venues. The initiative is supported by £2.5 million announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in September and aims to provide “a million free tickets by March 2011” (or, more realistically, 618,000 during the pilot, according to today’s press release).
The scheme follows in the wake of the McMaster report, which was published in January this year following consultation with the arts industries and recommended an annual free ticket week to encourage young people to experience live theatre (See News, 10 Jan 2008). Studies show that attendances at arts events traditionally drops in the 18-26 age range.
The new scheme is specifically attached to venues as opposed to productions and will run alongside existing reduced price schemes for young people that most subsidised theatres already operate. If successful, the scheme may be widened beyond theatre to other art forms.
Following the announcement of the scheme, ACE received 116 applications. Of these, 99 – representing more than 200 venues – were successful. ACE chief executive Alan Davey said today: "Venues around the country have responded to this initiative with energy and imagination. Through their creative commitment, many more young people will experience what theatre can do - inspire, challenge, and help make sense of the world; an engagement and an inspiration that can last all their lives.”
Other successful London applicants include: the National Theatre, the Barbican and the Rose Theatre, Kingston (all granted £50,000 each); Hackney Empire, the Pleasance, Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, the Arcola and Polka children’s theatre (£30,000 each); and the Orange Tree, Roundhouse and Gate (£10,000 each).
Around the country, amongst the other major venues and companies taking part in the scheme are Chichester Festival, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Birmingham Rep, Manchester’s Royal Exchange, Hull Truck, Sheffield Crucible, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company. For a full list of participating theatres, visit www.artscouncil.org.uk.
ACE also announced this week that it is granting the RSC an additional £5 million towards the £112.8 million transformation of the Grade II-listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre (See News, 1 Sep 2008). Last year, after exceeding the original £100 million fundraising target before building work had even begun, the RSC decided to extend renovations to the Grade II-listed building – adding in a double-height rooftop restaurant and increased facilities for artists – with a price tag of a further £12.8 million (See News, 19 Apr 2007).
In September 2004, the RSC officially scrapped controversial plans put in place by former RSC artistic director Adrian Noble to demolish the RST (See News, 22 Sep 2004). Instead, a new 1,030-capacity, thrust-stage auditorium is being created within the existing 1932 riverside building, which currently seats 1,400. Once redesigned, the distance from the furthest seat to the stage will be reduced from the current 27 metres to 15 metres.
After securing an initial £70 million from public funding (£50 million from ACE and £20 million from Advantage West Midlands), the RSC raised more than £30 million from its own fundraising efforts, some £22 million of that from five private philanthropists, to cover the £100 million cost of its original scheme. Building work began in April 2007, when the RST was officially decommissioned, and is due to be completed in 2010. Until then, the temporary 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre acts as the RSC’s main home in Stratford.
The new ACE funds - an extension of the existing Lottery grant for the refurbishment - are to provide continued revenue support for the final two years of the construction project, while two of the RSC’s three theatres remain closed.
- by Terri Paddock