‘A national emergency’: UK theatres fear closure after more local funding cuts

The Observer

07 Jan 2024

by Vanessa Thorpe

“This funding crisis is fast becoming a national emergency,” said Jack Gamble, the director and CEO of Campaign for the Arts, adding that, while he sympathised with the “tough situation” some councils are in, “this can’t be the answer”.

“Local authorities are the biggest public funders of the arts,” he said. “They play an absolutely vital role in keeping spaces open, services running and creativity thriving – but in real terms, English councils have almost halved their cultural investment since 2010.”

In September cultural bodies, including the actors’ union Equity and the Campaign for the Arts, issued an urgent plea for parliament to step in and protect local arts funding, warning then that “treasured theatres” up and down the country were in trouble. Since then in December Clare Reddington, chief executive of Bristol’s Watershed cinema, has complained her city council “doesn’t have a clear cultural strategy”.

Speaking to the Stage this month, Gamble identified a lack of local funds as the looming danger. “As pressures mount on the services councils have legal duties to provide – especially social care – there are growing risks to everything else. Some councils, such as Birmingham and Nottingham, have effectively declared bankruptcy. Now, more than ever, we need to speak up for councils’ vital role in local cultural access and funding.”