The future of many London theatres and theatre companies is under threat following the announcement of funding cuts by the Arts Council. In letters received last week, theatres including the Drill Hall and companies including London Bubble were informed that as of April 2008 they would lose the grants they currently receive. Both the Drill Hall and London Bubble are appealing against the cuts that are likely to cause the long-standing organisations to close.
In the wake of the announcement, the Drill Hall has already cancelled its Christmas production, Bitch Slapped By God.
For the last 30 years the Drill Hall has been at the forefront of lesbian, gay and queer performance, presenting daring new work and establishing a national and international reputation. The theatre also runs an education programme addressing homophobic bullying and sexuality in schools. The Arts Council letter states that its funding is threatened due to “serious concerns over the sustainability of the organisation”.
Julie Parker, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Drill Hall, said: “I am shocked and dismayed by this decision, and we will be appealing against it.”
London Bubble, like the Drill Hall, has a long history; it has been entertaining and involving people in theatre across all of London’s boroughs for 35 years. The inclusive company has long term projects in 20 primary schools and 13 secondary schools, and attracts annual audiences of over 10,000 from diverse communities, over 15% of whom are first time theatregoers. The Arts Council’s decision to cancel London Bubble’s funding has been based on the artistic quality of its work.
Speaking about the proposed cut, London Bubble’s Artistic Director Jonathan Petherbridge commented: “We are appalled by Arts Council England’s decision. And we are gobsmacked that, while they are threatening to cut London Bubble, which leads in terms of increasing engagement and participation, at the same time Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of ACE, can write in Arts Industry that ‘Our recommendations also take into account our other priorities – the need to increase engagement and participation.’”
The funding cuts are not confined to London’s theatres; major venues around Britain, including the Bristol Old Vic, Exeter Northcott and Yvonne Arnaud all face having their funding slashed, as does the National Student Drama Festival. The organisations have until 21 January 2008 to appeal.