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Bristol Old Vic chief: ‘Theatres need new revenue models in light of government and council cuts’

Emma Stenning. Photo: Jon Craig
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Bristol Old Vic chief executive Emma Stenning has warned that regional theatres need to find new models of working to increase income in the face of government and local funding cuts.

She said the cuts meant regional theatres could no longer be “subsidy-reliant charities”.

The Bristol Old Vic has been hit particularly hard by local authority arts cuts, with the city council slashing the theatre’s budget by two thirds, from £288,000 a year to £100,000 a year in December 2017.

Speaking at the Theatres Trust Conference 2018 in London, Stenning said: “We can’t be subsidy-reliant charities any longer. We have to look at our buildings as our principle assets. We have to keep saying how can it carry on giving back to the business.”

She explained that the Bristol Old Vic previously made a £60,000 profit on its catering business, which is expected to increase to about £300,000 over the next 18 months, following the theatre’s refurbishment.

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Stenning, who announced in August she would be stepping down as chief executive, said: “When we started this scheme, the big hope was that the £300,000 would be a direct investment in the theatre programme and would enable us to do more, deliver more and have greater reach.

“The sad reality is that the loss of local authority funding, standstill arts council funding and inflation on every single bill, mean that [the extra catering income is] allowing us to keep up, instead of shrink, so that is a genuine frustration. What it means is that the search to increase revenue continues. We never get to a point where that’s settled.”

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