The Theatres Trust

Theatre funding cuts approved by Barking and Dagenham council

21st December 2011

The Broadway Theatre is set to close after the council decided to withdraw its funding. The council has insisted that professional performances will continue to be staged at the venue – despite senior councillors giving the go-ahead to savings proposals which include the termination of the Barking theatre’s grant at last week’s cabinet meeting. This is despite a 411-strong petition from users of the theatre who objected to the plans.

Artistic director Karena Johnson reacted angrily to the news. She said: “This is an outrageous decision. The borough already has extremely limited cultural provision and this decision will make it even more of a wasteland. There seems to be a growing ‘cultural apartheid’ in this country in that poorer boroughs somehow have less right to the arts than their wealthier neighbours. It’s a huge tragedy for the borough and it’s very disappointing news for the staff. We have had our most successful year, and the next year is set to look even better, so this is a real kick in the teeth. It’s a horrible thing to hear just before Christmas.”

Nineteen staff members are set to lose their jobs and the building will be used to just around 30 to 40 per cent of its capacity, according to Ms Johnson.

As reported in last week’s Post, the building would remain open but professional performances would be limited as the charity – the Broadway Theatre Company – is highly likely to lose its match-funding from the Arts Council and other bodies. In the past, the annual council grant was £330,000 which was topped up by other agencies to just under £1million. The grant was reduced to £65,000 for the financial year 2012/13, and to £100,000 for the following year.

The ARC theatre and Studio 3, a community theatre group, are expected to run programmes and foyer events because the council has a legal obligation to allow Barking and Dagenham College to use the building.

A council spokesman said: “We recognise the important role that performing arts plays, both for residents to take part in and to enjoy, and we are committed to providing high quality arts events and opportunities.”

Ms Johnson said the company would continue to fight for cultural provision in the theatre building. She added: “I don’t think it makes sense financially nor is it in the interests of the people of Barking and Dagenham. They have cut us short for a comparatively small amount of money.”

Source: Barking and Dagenham Post

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Façade at night, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury Sept 2011.
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