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Small theatre companies on ‘brink of extinction’, claims outgoing ITC chair

Topher Campbell, the outgoing chair of the Independent Theatre Council

Small-scale theatre companies are on “the brink of extinction” because of a funding bias towards more mainstream companies, outgoing Independent Theatre Council chair Topher Campbell has warned.

Campbell’s warning comes as he announced he is stepping down from the role after three years [1].

He disclosed his departure at the ITC annual general meeting and conference, during which he praised the body – which represents independent theatre companies across the UK – for its work supporting smaller-scale companies, particularly in the face on ongoing funding cuts.

Despite this, he warned of an imbalance in funding and support between large and small companies in the UK.

“It used to be the case in Arts Council England that [there was] a portfolio of different scale companies, [with] both mainstream and countercultural artistic missions. There seems now that the overwhelming situation is that large, mainstream, building-based companies are privileged over small organisations,” he said.

Campbell referenced ACE’s ‘special funding arrangement’ with English National Opera [2] as an example of the “disparity” between the way large and small companies are treated.

“A lot of small companies that are cut are given nothing, no strategy. You either sink or swim. The loss is so abrupt,” he said, adding: “We need to rearticulate the need for ACE, local authorities and central government to support the little person.”

Campbell went on to say: “We [the independent sector] need to continue to think and do differently and creatively, and raise our voices more clearly about how we run our organisations, [some of which] are very progressive and very interesting. Even though many of us have been left on the brink of extinction we need to continue to do this.”

Campbell, who leaves to concentrate on his career as a director and writer, will be replaced by Katie Keeler. Keeler is currently vice-chair and will take over as chair immediately for the next year.