Theatre funding at risk as grant is cut
A THEATRE which provides educational activities for almost 30,000 children every year is to have its funding axed.
The New Vic has received an annual grant from Stoke-on-Trent City Council for more than a decade but faces losing its financial support in budget cuts.
Funding from the region's councils helps the theatre host about 28,000 youngsters every year at educational and community workshops.
It also helps bring in more than £900,000 a year from the Government-funded Arts Council, which does not fund any other theatres in the county but supports the New Vic because of its work with youngsters and local authority backing.
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The city council's funding of £70,000 will be cut by about £23,000 in each of the next three financial years – meaning funding will be scrapped altogether by 2016/17.
It follows a 10 per cent cut last year.
Talks will be held between the council and theatre management over the future of education services used by city children.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, pictured, said: "Schools pay for some of the services delivered there and we do think they will be able to continue to finance that. The theatre relies on funds from councils and those funds historically have been important. They underpin other funding.
"We are aware that any cuts won't be welcomed by the theatre and we'll have discussions with management as to how they can be managed."
Officers have warned the cut could risk Arts Council support in future.
A report to councillors' states: "Withdrawing this grant in totality may leave the New Vic in a vulnerable financial position with other funding bodies.
"The theatre is managed by an independent charitable company and relies on council grants to lever the majority of its funding from the Arts Council England.
"It provides theatre and education services to a significant proportion of the population in the city."
Theatre bosses say £45.33 returns to the economy for each £1 in council funding.
They also say the theatre reaches more young people than any other with a quarter of all audience members aged under 26.
Staffordshire County Council has pledged to continue spending £189,000 a year on the New Vic, based in Etruria Road, Newcastle, until at least 2014/15.
Newcastle Borough Council provided £97,620 to the theatre this year – the same grant as last year – but has not decided on its investment for 2013/14.
City councillor Matt Wilcox, who was chairman of a committee set up to review value for money at theatres funded by the council, said: "We have all got to stand on our own feet in the current climate. It is sad that we have to cut grants, but this is an organisation that does a lot of work in the city but is not based in Stoke-on-Trent."
County councillor, Pat Corfield, cabinet member for culture and communities said: "We are committed to making the arts as accessible as possible and will allocate funding where we can."
Fiona Wallace, executive director at the New Vic, said: "Like every local authority in the country, Stoke-on-Trent is having to make very difficult decisions.
"We will continue to work with the city council to attract investment into North Staffordshire and to provide a world-class service for local people."