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Hornchurch's Queen's Theatre threatened by Havering's proposed budget cuts

When a council seeks to reduce its budgetary deficit, somehow it's always the arts which are lined up for the firing squad.

Mark Walters' set for the recent production of "Lend Me A Tenor" at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch.
© Mark Sepple 2014

It's sometimes called the Diamond on the Green", but the London Borough of Havering has announced that it intends to cut £300,000 of its annual grant to the Queen's Theatre over the next two years. Yet the theatre's administrative director Thom Stanbury points out that Havering's subsidy amounts to a mere penny for every £7.00 the Council spends.

The cost of the award-winning Queen's Theatre to the borough's residents is reckoned at around ten pence per week. Against that, you can set the 150,000 audience members, including the 12,000 involved in the cut to the chase... permanent repertory company's outreach and educational programming.

Arts Council funding currently brings £275,000 into the borough each year. The Queen's Theatre employs around 175 people – full-time, part-time and freelance. cut to the chase... produces eight new productions each year, quite apart from those small-scale and specifically tailored ones which go out to schools and other community venues.

Permanent repertory companies, out side the major ones such as the National Theatre and the RSC, are rare nowadays. Sets, costumes and props are all designed and created on-site; their excellence has been specifically recognised by some of the Queen's Theatre's recent national and regional awards. This is also something which is no longer as common as it once was in regional theatre.

Theatre-goers, both resident in the borough and those who come to the performances not just from Essex but from further afield, can make their opinion felt through a series of planned public meetings and by taking part in the online consultation at www.Havering.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Haverings-budget.aspx. The deadline for submissions is 29 December.