Theatre Space North East, the first theatre company in the North East to return after the UK’s first lockdown has been awarded a vital grant to allow it to continue providing accessible cultural experiences during an increasingly uncertain time for the arts.
After persevering through set back after set back to bring their much loved season of outdoor shows to eager audiences over the summer, the company, based in Sunderland city centre, are breathing a sigh of relief after the Culture Secretary announced today, the recipients of the much anticipated Culture Recovery Fund,
The fund, part of the unprecedented £1.57bn investment in the UK’s enviable arts industry is designed to help arts, culture and live entertainment makers to weather the storm amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Theatre Space is one of 588 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support in round 2 of the funding – with £76 million of investment announced today. This follows £257 million awarded earlier in the week to 1,385 organisations, also from the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.
As large parts of the country join the North East in tougher local lockdowns, the future of live music and theatre is looking bleaker than ever. Not only will the Culture Recovery Fund help shore up finances for large and small cultural organisations, it should help companies to diversify and deliver ever more creative cultural experiences as audiences adjust to the new normal.
For Theatre Space North East, it means continuing to develop their innovative brand of outdoor and site-specific performances, workshops and activities with schools and community groups, after their COVID secure Shakespeare productions played to sell out, socially distant audiences in July and August. Despite the ever changing and often unclear guidance and enormous additional expense to cover PPE and other public health measures, the company were able to return to the ‘stage’ in Roker’s St Andrews Churchyard, Mowbray Park and Ryhope’s St Paul’s Churchyard, providing much needed employment opportunities for local performers and theatre practitioners. Now, with the much-needed funds from government, the theatre company has big plans for the coming months, as the doors of traditional venues remain shut.
Theatre Space’s £50,000 award will now fund three part time positions, working remotely and at the company’s Borough Road HQ, help the company to stage two regional theatre tours, one before the festive season and one in the new year, as well as helping to develop more online learning for schools, youth groups and community organisations, so more locals can gain from the magic of live theatre.
The company’s artistic director Corinne Kilvington has been calling for the government to step in to save the industry that collectively contributes over £100bn to the UK economy every year;
“The UK’s creative industries are the lifeblood of the nation and it was the talents of creatives that saw the country through the darkest days of lockdown. The Cultural Recovery Fund will hopefully ensure that we protect our most precious cultural assets both here in the region and around the country. We fought tooth and nail to bring culture to back Sunderland from the moment we were able to do so safely and this award of £50,000 will help us to continue to innovate, delight audiences and support the wonderful creative industry we have here in the North East,”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“This is more vital funding to protect cultural gems across the country, save jobs and prepare the arts to bounce back. Through Arts Council England we are delivering the biggest ever investment in the arts in record time. Hundreds of millions of pounds are already making their way to thousands of organisations.
“These awards build on our commitment to be here for culture in every part of the country.”
The news comes as theatres prepare to stage socially distant pantomimes and specially adapted shows to try and plug the gap left behind by the usual festive offering. For many freelancers and cultural workers, who have been left behind by the government’s COVID support measures, it’s hoped the funding will kickstart a recovery for the industry and secure the livelihoods of many talented performers, creatives and technicians who make the UK’s world class theatre industry tick.