Theatres Trust responds to the Civil Society Strategy

The UK Government has published the Civil Society Strategy: building a future that works for everyone, which works alongside the previously announced Industrial Strategy. Read our response to the UK Government's vision for better connected communities and its possible implications for theatres.

The Civil Society Strategy sets out the government’s vision of the UK with better connected communities, more neighbourliness, and businesses which strengthen society. It focuses on how the government can empower individuals and communities to make a difference in their areas and how it can support the social, public and private sectors to be more effective.

The strategy is formed around five foundations, the second of which ‘improving places through empowerment and investment in local communities’ is of particular interest. It includes a section on supporting local sports, arts and culture where it recognises the vital contribution of culture in economic growth and the need for sustainable community spaces.

The Theatres Trust welcomes the recognition of the role culture plays in economic growth and place in the Civil Society Strategy published by the UK Government. This is an argument that the Theatres Trust has long been making so we are pleased to see it central to the Civil Society Strategy.

The strategy acknowledges that many communities currently lack high-quality facilities and proposes introducing a programme to look at more sustainable community spaces. While not mentioned in the document by name, we strongly believe that this should include theatre buildings, both old and new, which are one of the few places left in communities where people can come together whatever their age, ethnicity or class.

Many of the community campaign groups we work with could benefit from the strategy’s plans to give people greater influence in their local communities. For this to work effectively other government policies will need to be reviewed, including permitted development rights, and Assets of Community Value will need to be strengthened if it is to help save more precious theatre buildings for future generations.

The document does raise challenging questions about what is the right balance of responsibility and investment from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors for creating healthy cultural infrastructure. This is a topic we’ll be exploring in more detail at Conference 18: Adapt & Thrive.

Jon Morgan, Director said:

“Theatres’ vital part in placemaking was the theme of our conference last year so it is positive to see culture acknowledged in this way at the highest level of government. We will be interested to see the further detail of the programmes mentioned in the strategy, but will continue to make the case that theatres should be included in any definition of community spaces.”