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President of UK Theatre warns industry: ‘expect hideous cuts’

Rachel Tackley, UK Theatre president Rachel Tackley, UK Theatre president, said the cuts would be "potentially massive and devastating"
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UK Theatre president Rachel Tackley has warned the industry to expect “pretty hideous” cuts in the government’s upcoming spending review.

She also voiced fears that, because the effect of cuts are not felt immediately, the general public could accuse theatres of “crying wolf” over the impact of funding cuts.

Unprotected government departments including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were warned in July to prepare for budget cuts of up to 40% – which are likely have a knock-on effect on Arts Council England’s funding. Details of the spending review will be announced on November 25.

Tackley, who is also director of English Touring Theatre, said that it would be cuts to local government funding that cause real damage to theatre companies across the country.

She said: “The next few months are going to be interesting, because we don’t know what’s going to happen with local government [funding], which we’ve been saying for a long time is going to be the next key indicator of how we can survive as an industry – particularly regional theatre. Those cuts are going to be potentially massive and devastating.”

Tackley explained that the impact of funding cuts to theatre was often not fully recognised by those outside the industry, because of how long it takes for them to take effect.

She said: “If you’re cut by the arts council or your local authority or whatever local funding body you have, it’s often not that year, it’s maybe the next year. So we’re still surviving on [previous funding].

“We keep saying things are difficult and that the cuts are having an effect, but I think the general public often expect to see those effects really quickly – and of course it takes a long time. Which is great, because it gives us more opportunity to think how resourceful we can be, to change our working practices, to engage more with audiences, and to develop new ways of working. But I think sometimes it might look a bit like we’re crying wolf.”

She added that she felt the cuts were “going to be pretty hideous”.

The producer was speaking to The Stage in the wake of new Arts Council England figures, which reveal that subsidised theatres are now relying less on public funding to prop up their overall income.

Tackley said the figures proved the industry was populated by “resourceful, pushy, clever, inventive people”.

“That’s who we are. And I think the figures that have shown that while subsidy is decreasing, the level of output hasn’t decreased, audiences haven’t decreased – bloody hats off to us,” she said.

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