Arts Council England have decided not to award Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) funding and support, which means that the Theatre will apply for strategic project led Grants for the Arts funding going forward. Theatre Royal hasn’t received NPO funding since 2015 but under the stewardship of Karen Simpson the theatre has seen sustained growth over the last three years with audiences increasing by more than 30%.
‘We will still look forward to an exciting future of further development’, said Karen, ‘We knew it would be difficult for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds to be part of Arts Council’s National Portfolio with shrinking public subsidy. We have been working tirelessly to ensure that we represent a vibrant rural part of the UK, bringing some of the best work to our beautiful theatre ensuring high quality performances reach our audiences. Our work with schools and community partners enables people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in making theatre, and offers exciting work for artists in our region. With the support from Suffolk County Council, St Edmundsbury District Council and the huge number of individuals, businesses, charities, trusts, and audiences we will ensure that Theatre Royal is at the heart of our community. It’s a vital part of the future of the area and will continue to be so.’
Roger Quince, Chair of the Board said, ‘While the ACE decision not to award us with NPO funding is obviously a disappointment it will not divert us from our strategic direction, producing more of our own work, bringing in more diverse performances and widening our audience base. Under Karen Simpson’s leadership Theatre Royal has been transformed in the past few years and I have no doubt that we will continue to develop and prosper. The core funding that NPO provides would have been helpful in mitigating the risks inherent in any theatre enterprise, but of course we are still able to attract specific project funding, where we have had considerable recent success.’
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, has one of the most varied programmes in the Eastern region with week-long classic dramas, stand-up comedy, poetry, dance and music. As champions of new work the Theatre encourages emerging local and national playwrights, there are innovative projects with the community, a thriving Youth Theatre, dynamic outreach work delivered by Associate Artists and an education programme working with local schools.
Theatre Royal recently produced Once Upon a Festival, two weeks of events across the whole of East Anglia, working with five venues and over 35 schools. The Festival is now in its third year, and with Grants for the Arts for next year already in place, it looks to be a firm fixture in the summer cultural calendar for young people, parents, and guardians.
With successful 2017 home grown productions, Northanger Abbey, an Austen adaptation, which toured nationally and Our Day Out – the Musical, a show featuring the graduates of the summer school alongside a professional cast, there’s no lack of ambition at this regional theatre. All this great work will carry on with a dedicated team determined to continue delivering excellence to those that live here or visit the region.