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Yvonne Arnaud Theatre funding to be cut by Guildford Borough Council

Financial difficulties continue for theatres across the UK

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
© User: Jack1956, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has issued a statement regarding Guildford Borough Council's decision to cut its funding from April of this year.

According to the release, the annual grant of £310,220 will be reduced to £273,000 in April, with further cuts down to £200,000 to be expected by 2024/25.

Joanna Read, director and chief executive of the theatre, commented: "The theatre has just come through the worst period of operation in its history. Thanks to the support of our audiences and the immense efforts of our staff, we are now rebuilding our organisation as pandemic restrictions are lifted. The Covid emergency is not over for the arts and creative industries. The coming year will be extremely difficult for the theatre as live events take time to return to pre-Covid attendance levels. We are projecting a deficit for the theatre in the coming year of £327k; with the Council's decision this will now increase to £364k. To receive this cut now, this lack of support, at such a critical time, is deeply demoralising."

She added: "The Council have pointed to the one-off Cultural Recovery Funds received by the theatre from DCMS (Department for Culture Media and Sport) and Arts Council England as a demonstration of the theatre's financial health. These were one-off emergency grants used to pay wages and core overheads during the closure periods of the last two years, and losses directly related to Covid. The grants are not ongoing and will not compensate for GBC's decision last night."

The organisation is registered as a charity and housed within a listed building.

The Conservative-led council has responded to the story issued yesterday, with Joss Bigmore saying: ‘Our residents know these are challenging times for local authorities. Ongoing reductions in government funding and the impact of Covid mean we are facing a substantial deficit in coming years. It's forced us to reconsider all spending and we've put in place a Saving Strategy.

"We have not asked any of our partners to do anything we haven't already done ourselves which for us has meant we will unlock £8m worth of savings internally including streamlining our workforce by 100 roles. While we wholly support and value the importance of our borough's brilliant arts and culture sector as part of what makes Guildford not only great but unique, we have had to make difficult decisions. This includes the Executive decision last night to reduce – not completely cut – our annual grant to the Yvonne Arnaud over the next three years from a substantial £310k to a still sizeable £200k which gives them time to plan ahead.

"We have also provided them other support over the years for example the Mill Studio at reduced rent and we support their new community event booking system ‘Other Places' which since our own booking system closed we recommend all of our borough's event promoters use."

The Borough Council's funding cut is only the latest in a string of similar reductions in spending by local authorities since 2010. As reported in Get Surrey, Bigmore had indeed attempted to justify the cuts given the support of the CRF.

As audience confidence is at an all-time low, venues will have to look to increased expenditure in order to attract back punters – budget cuts at this crucial point in recovery will therefore be incredibly detrimental. Repeated studies have also shown how the presence of theatres has been instrumental in revitalising nightlife, hospitality and more, while bringing people into city centres.

WhatsOnStage reported on the challenges facing local councils and the subsequent impact on the nation's theatres back in August 2020.

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