New writing survey finds theatres canceling shows in wake of funding cuts

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More than 60 % of UK theatres  and producing companies have said they have cancelled or postponed at least one production since April 2012, according to a survey looking at the impact of  funding cuts on new writing.

The independent report, called In Battalions, surveyed 26 theatre producers including the Almeida Theatre in London, touring company Out of Joint and new writing company Paines Plough.

It also found that more than half of those surveyed are now producing fewer new plays than before April 2012.

The majority of respondents said they were commissioning fewer full plays from writers too.

Meanwhile, more than half of the theatres surveyed said they are experiencing multiple funding cuts and the majority of respondents also said they are now having to use smaller cast sizes.

Playwright Fin Kennedy launched the survey last year following a conversation he had with culture minister Ed Vaizey in which Kennedy says Vaizey claimed that the Arts Council England funding cuts since April 2012 were having “no effect” on theatres and that new plays were “thriving”.

In March 2011, ACE announced that 308 of its regularly funded organisations would have their funding cut from April 2012. Of those, 206 who applied to join the new portfolio had their funding completely removed.

Kennedy, who interviewed more than 40 theatre industry professionals including National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner and Max Stafford-Clark, artistic director of  Out of Joint, said that the findings show funding cuts are not only affecting small scale theatres, but that larger, high profile theatres also anticipate negative effects in years to come due to a shortage of talent.

Hytner said: “The consequences of inadequate public investment will be fewer risks, inadequate development of new work, a substantially less interesting theatrical environment and a less successful one.”

Kennedy said: “New British plays have been an extraordinary international success story over recent years, winning awards, creating growth, connecting communities and engaging our young.

“But these findings raise serious questions about how sustainable that success is. Many of my respondents feel that we’re at the beginning of a crisis as entry points to the profession close down due to funding cuts.”