Exeter’s Northcott Theatre faces closure threat as ACE withdraws annual grant

Exeter’s Northcott Theatre is facing the threat of closure after discovering it is to lose its annual £547,000 Arts Council England grant from April 2009.

The venue was informed of ACE’s plans this week, as the organisation begins to make public its funding priorities for the next three years. The news comes as the Devon venue reopens following a £2.1 million redevelopment.

According to management, there is a “very real possibility” the cuts, if they are confirmed in January, could lead to closure and the loss of 58 jobs from 2009.

The chairman of the Northcott Theatre board Steve Gratton said: “I simply cannot understand why the arts council would say it’s committed to the theatre, allow public money to be spent on its redevelopment [ACE contributed £100,000 to the scheme] and then pull the plug just as the theatre re-opens. This is a bitter pill for the theatre’s 58 staff to swallow, coming as they re-open the theatre and just two weeks before Christmas. We had no inkling at all that this was going to happen. Everyone who supports and works for Exeter Northcott has the right to feel very angry indeed.

“The only chance for the theatre is if the people of Exeter and Devon make their feelings known to the arts council. Theatregoers face losing their theatre and staff face losing their jobs. We understand the arts council will make its final decision on January 21. We need to gather as many expressions of support as possible by then.”

Nick Capaldi, executive director of Arts Council England, South West said the recommendation to stop continue funding the theatre “was not made lightly”. He explained that ACE, South West had expressed concerns to Northcott in a number of areas, and despite offering subsidy towards the refurbishment, the problems still remain.

Capaldi added: “The arts council received a good settlement from government and we must now ensure the money is used in the most effective way. In this case, that means investing in organisations that are producing the most innovative work that reaches out to the widest audiences.

“Our letter to the Northcott explains that the theatre can respond to our recommendation and our regional council will take its response into account before making a final funding decision in the new year.”

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