Chichester receives £12m from ACE towards rebuild

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Chichester Festival Theatre will receive £12 million from Arts Council England that will enable its project to upgrade the theatre to go ahead this year.

The money from ACE is in addition to pledged funds from local businesses, trusts and individuals as well as £1.5 million from West Sussex County Council and £500,000 from Chichester District Council. It means that Chichester has now raised £20 million of its £22 million target for its Renew campaign and can begin building work this autumn.

Alan Finch, CFT executive director, said: "We are all hugely excited about the funding that's been granted. This has all come together very quickly. We have been working on this for the past two years and the funding package that's been put together is phenomenal.

"Without the significant contribution from ACE, clearly the aspirations that we have for this £22 million scheme would not have been deliverable. It's also a testimony to the support of both the authorities and the local businesses, trusts and audiences that they've managed to pledge £8 million in what are very difficult economic times.

"Now we all need to put shoulder to the wheel to ensure we raise the remaining £2 million".

CFT recently launched a campaign that appeals directly to the public for the extra money. Theatregoers can sponsor a seat in the auditorium and have their name inscribed on the back of a chair, make regular donations or take part in fundraising activities.

The 18-month restoration work for the theatre includes removing additional extensions made to the original 1962 building and adding extra dressing rooms, office space and backstage technical facilities. There will also be additional toilets and improved disabled access.

Throughout the building work it is hoped the Minerva theatre will remain open and that a temporary 1,400-seat tent will be built for shows to play in, one of which would be the musical Barnum. Finch expects to find out the result of the planning permission application for the temporary theatre by the end of this summer.

"We don't want to lose the audience we've spent the last eight years building up. We believe passionately that we need not send the audience home while we do the work and are very committed to delivering the festival before opening again fully in June 2014," he said.

Meanwhile, four other arts organisations including the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House will receive a portion of the £43.8 million from ACE's capital investment programme.

The National Theatre has been granted £17.5 million, the Royal Opera House has been awarded £10 million, the Southbank Centre has been handed £3.3 million, while High House Production Park has been given £1 million.

Nicholas Hytner, director of the National, said: "The National Theatre Future project will see a dramatic opening-up and renewal of Denys Lasdun's 1970s building: making the theatre, its history, its productions and crafts, and its artists and staff, visible and accessible to a wider public, and creating new opportunities for public participation and enjoyment. We warmly welcome the arts council's endorsement of the project and their capital investment grant of £17.5million towards our £70million target; £40m has already been raised from trusts, individuals and the National's own earnings from War Horse."