Chichester Festival Theatre threatened with 63% local council cuts

Natalie Woolman

Chichester Festival Theatre could be facing a 63% cut to its funding from West Sussex County Council, after the local authority revealed new budget proposals.

The council planned to subsidise the venue to the tune of £216,000 in 2011/12, but is now proposing that this be cut to just £80,000. That figure would be maintained until the end of 2013/14.

CFT will also have to cope with a 6.9% cash reduction in its Arts Council funding in 2011/12 – equating to a cut of £113,845. If the county council’s proposals are approved, this would mean the theatre would have to deal with a combined cut of £249,845 from two of its major financial supporters in 2011/12 alone.

Alan Finch, executive director of CFT, said: “The proposed county council cut is much deeper than the 20% we had anticipated. We will need to consider the impact that the proposed cuts would have. The success of the theatre’s operating model in recent years is directly attributable to the subsidies that enable artistic risk-taking and an expanding regional education outreach programme.”

The venue has reported that in 2010, it attracted audiences of more than 313,000 to its shows and provided arts education projects to more than 37,000 young people. It also claimed that the current management team had increased audiences by 90% since 2006.

West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “I want to emphasise strongly that these are just proposals at this stage. No final decisions have been taken. The agenda papers do clearly demonstrate the scale of the task facing us, and some of the very difficult decisions we may have to take.

“However, there are proposals that will have a direct impact on residents, and there is no escape from that, and no alternative. The need to reduce the nation’s debt is going to have a severe impact for councils across the country.”

The local authority is due to hold its budget meeting on February 11.

Meanwhile, CFT is preparing its application for core funding from Arts Council England beyond 2012. The deadline for applications to ACE’s new national portfolio funding programme is January 24.

CFT comprises the 1,206-seat Festival Theatre and the Minerva Theatre, which has 283 seats.

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