Theatre Royal Riding Through the RecessionDate: 6 April 2011
Never an organisation just to sit back on its laurels – which can be an uncomfortable undertaking even when there isn’t a national economic crisis – the Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal today (Wednesday 6 April) celebrated the new financial year with a clarification, several promises and the introduction of its new executive director.
Colin Blumenau, the Theatre Royal’s artistic director, welcomed the Arts Council three-year funding of the theatre as a National Portfolio Organisation from April 2012 at the rate of £120,000 per annum and its recognition that the Theatre Royal is a flagship for national medium-scale touring in the east of England. It is hoped that this will encourage the local authorities at both county and district council level to continue their own financial support.
As well as the professional performances at the Theatre Royal (in-house as well as touring productions), a great deal of often-un-reported work goes on for the benefit of the local community across all its age ranges. Active and continual fund-raising produces an extra £170,000 per year, including sponsorship of productions) and the theatre also benefits from its heritage status, thus allowing access for some purposes to specifically heritage-related funding. The Heritage Lottery Fund, for example, supports the Restoring the Repertoire programme.
As reported on this website and elsewhere, 200 years of history has not made the Theatre Royal luddite in its attitude to modern technology. Partly thanks to the input from young staff members on various TRAIN internships, Twitter has become a serious marketing tool. One in three tickets are now booked online, which in turn maximises the box office takings. Encouraging theuse of the building by external organisations is proving a fruitful exercise.
Only three days into his new post, executive director Simon Daykin felt that the theatre’s overall reputation for high quality can be used to grow the organisation even in these challenging economic times. A spokesman from the National Trust emphasised that the Georgian theatre is a living and working entity – “what most National Trust buildings should be”.
Brian Stewart, chairman of the board of trustees and someone with considerable local government experience, was optimistic that the theatre’s combination of artistic ambition and community service would continue to receive the support from all quarters which it merits. Meanwhile, Blumenau is preparing to undertake the Georgian Horse Challenge – riding from John O’Groats to Lands End. The old-fashioned is sometimes extremely up-to-date.
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