Schools should be given funding to take children on trips to see plays, the theatre industry’s key membership bodies have argued in an election manifesto sent out to political parties.
The Society of London and UK Theatre have published a manifesto making “the case for a thriving theatre industry in the UK”, which has been published ahead of an expected election in December.
The document calls for a three-pronged approach to supporting British theatre; funding and growth, talent development and international collaboration.
It condemns the “serious impact” of declining arts subject take up in schools, and argues that it should be made easier for pupils to engage with theatre.
“Enable and incentivise schools in the most deprived areas to use their local theatres. This could be done through a government-supported scheme rather than isolated philanthropy or one-off grants,” it says.
It also suggests that funding could be used to offer schools free travel to theatres, which is often cited as a barrier for schools facing budgetary restrictions.
Transport for London already offers this for schools travelling at off-peak times, but suggests it could be extended to other areas of the country.
Theatres have reported declining numbers of schools attending performances, with many attributing this to the financial pressures schools are under.
Leading theatre bosses have also warned that they are witnessing the arts being sidelined in a narrowing, academically-focused curriculum and drama teachers being made redundant.
Other demands in SOLT and UK Theatre’s manifesto include a review of business rates for theatre venues.
The manifesto says: “The removal of local government funding is by far the greatest threat to prosperity and growth in our sector…As local councils look to train 100% of business rates to meet the costs of services, many have begun withdrawing the 20% discretionary relief available to those of our members who are charities. We ask for this relief to be maintained.”
It also asks for specific funding to support theatres in reducing climate change. This could be done by opening up funds that would allow theatre buildings to be retrofitted to make them more energy efficient.
Other points in the manifesto include:
SOLT and UK Theatre’s document follows a similar manifesto published this week by the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, which called for a £1 billion investment bank dedicated to support culture in the UK regions that need it most.