Theatres Trust announces new small-scale grants

The Theatres Trust and The Linbury Trust have just announced that they are to award a first round of over £69k in grants from the Small Grants Programme to 14 theatres across the UK for projects to improve their accessibility, sustainability, and viability, allowing them to welcome back audiences old and new after the devastating period of closure due to Covid.

The scheme was set up to support theatres across the UK with projects to improve their accessibility, sustainability, and viability, allowing them to welcome back audiences old and new after the devastating period of closure.

Projects range from installing a Changing Places toilet alongside other vital accessibility works and improving technology to develop theatres’ digital infrastructure, upgrades to more sustainable heating systems, and essential repairs to electrics, safety equipment, and toilets to help them remain viable and thrive.

The Small Grants Programme has been made possible thanks to the support of The Linbury Trust and donations from Judy Craymer CBE and Charles Michael Holloway Charitable Trust.

The theatres to benefit are

Angles Theatre
Finborough Theatre
Lawrence Batley Theatre
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith 
Malvern Theatres
Pateley Bridge Playhouse
Romiley Little Theatre
Stables Theatre
Stanley Arts
Theatr Brycheiniog
Theatro Technis
Tower Theatre Folkestone
Trinity Theatre Tunbridge Wells
Worcester Swan

The second round of this Small Grants Programme initiative is now open, inviting applications for grants of up to £5,000 for not-for-profit theatres.

Watch Now: Finborough offers another classic revival – with a few intriguing twists!

Yet again the brilliant Finborough Theatre comes up with another online offering to enjoy through August. This time it’s another in their ever-fascinating line of theatrical rediscoveries which are always worth seeing. Another intriguing facet to this production is the appearance in the cast of two people best known as theatre critics not actors- Michael Billington and Fiona Mountford. Intrigued? Me too!

Presented as part of the Kensington and Chelsea Festival, this play is – intriguingly- actually located in the borough, in the streets in and around the Finborough itself. The play is available now until 25 August.

MASKS AND FACES OR, BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CURTAIN by Charles Reade and Tom Taylor was written and first performed in 1852

“We are actors. The most unfortunate of all artists. Nobody regards our feelings…”

Country gentleman Ernest Vane comes to London and is seduced into the celebrity lifestyle of a group of players – soon discarding his new wife for the more obvious charms of the great stage actress Peg Woffington.

In the tradition of The School for Scandal and The Rivals, Masks and Faces is both a 18th century period caper and a tribute to the backstage world of the theatre, complete with the hapless failed playwright, Triplet, and his hungry family, to real-life writer Colley Cibber, and the ghastly critics Soaper and Snarl……

Set in the 18th century, written in the 19th century, filmed in the 20th century (with an all-star cast), and now presented for the first time online, MASKS AND FACES is a celebration of making theatre.

First performed in 1852, the history of MASKS AND FACES is rooted in Kensington and Chelsea and the local area around the Finborough Theatre. It provided Ellen Terry – a former resident of Finborough Road, and a long term resident of Earl’s Court – with one of her first and most acclaimed leading roles. The production is supported by the Friends of Brompton Cemetery, next to the Finborough Theatre, where the co-author Tom Taylor, and actors Ben Webster and Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft – all known for their roles in Masks and Faces – lie buried.

Presented by Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre as part of The Kensington + Chelsea Festival 2021 which runs from 21 June–31 August. The Kensington + Chelsea Festival will bring people together to inspire and be inspired, offering a season of arts experiences in venues and unusual spaces, putting culture at the heart of pandemic recovery. The multi-disciplinary will celebrate creativity and culture for everyone. The Festival mix spans visual art, public art, design, theatre, circus, opera, dance, music, outdoor arts, comedy, spoken word, young people’s take-over stages, family shows, talks, micro-commissions, with creative experiments enabling audiences to see artists bringing new ideas to life.

MASKS AND FACES will be available to watch online from Wednesday, 28 July at 6.00pm to Wednesday, 25 August 2021 at midnight. The show will be available with subtitles on Screensaver here.


Find the theatre’s information about the show here

Society for Theatre Research announces new grants

Are you, or do you know, a theatre practitioner or researcher working through the pandemic and in need of financial help to develop a project?

The Society for Theatre Research has just announced they will be awarding twenty support grants of £200 available to help theatre practitioners and researchers through the ongoing problems caused by the pandemic. These grants are for practitioners working in the UK to facilitate British and British-related theatre projects.

The application is quick and closing date for applications is Friday 13th August.

You can find more information and application details here

VIEWS: A time for focus

Well, I hadn’t expected for this to be a continuing series ,but things are changing quite quickly so I felt it was important to take a few moments to make a few observations.

Since the West End (and other shows) have reopened, albeit piecemeal, it has been a turbulent time. Some shows have realised that it will take longer to get back to pre-pandemic audiences, and have consequently postponed or cancelled national tours, adding further uncertainty to the ever-shifting schedules of regional theatres.

In the West End, shows at the Coliseum , the Dominion and Royal Court have had backstage or cast members register a positive COVID-test, which meant that their show had to close down for 10 days while everyone isolates. Let’s compare this to a footballer, who tests positive but the team can continue training and playing. Level playing field, I think not.

While 10 days closure seems very cautious indeed, what we must also remember are the knock-on effects of this. Hard-pressed Box Offices are beseiged with calls from customers wanting to reschedule their visits, not all of them happy or empathetic, with all the accompanying stress that brings (not all customers are lovely about changing their plans, believe you me!).

Further, you may not know but everyone who is forced to isolate receives no pay whatsoever. Can you imagine how precarious this all feels to a performer or backstage worker who was so elated at getting a job after 16 months, only to have the financial lifeline it provides pulled from under their feet. Requests have been made to adjust the quarantine requirements, but of course we see how slowly this government acts- if at all. This is a key impact of the Government not providing support in the form of an insurance-backed scheme to compensate producers for any losses due to Covid stoppages. Exactly the same sort of insurance coverage helped the Film and TV industry get back to work over a year ago. Why did the Government not help theatres too? You decide.

I am sure you can appreciate this makes no sense at all, but then why should we ask for sense from a government which clearly hasn’t a clue, with no concept of right or wrong, fair or discriminatory, compassionate or cruel. They just don’t care.

I have heard that performers in cancelled shows are receiving abusive or threatening messages via social media, which is utterly unacceptable. If any performers or crew member receives abuse, they should report it to the police immediately. It’s understandable that people are upset. A LOT of people are upset. But being upset at the wrong people is wrong – and no way to get anything sorted.

This COVID mess , if it is anyone’s fault, is the Government’s -from mistiming lockdowns and unlockings, to giving incorrect and confusing advice from start to finish which now leaves us back in the situation we were in at Christmas, with cases likely to soar to new heights, putting evermore pressure on our valued NHS.

Big shows like HAIRSPRAY at the Coliseum are taking on 12 extra performers to try to cover them for any future COVID- related restrictions, but very few shows (if any in this appallingly difficult time) could afford the budget to do that. And just imagine how that is cutting into the profit margin for what was already a tightly-forecast 12-week run.

Meanwhile, another change to contend with is that audiences are now sitting up close and personal to each other in venues packed to full capacity after the misleadingly-titled Freedom Day. My projection is that many will not feel ready for this after more than a year of separation – and that consequently, they will feel desperately uncomfortable, unsafe and unsure – they will reschedule where they can, others will simply not go and others wont buy tickets until they see the case numbers going down in a big way.

The Summer is usually one of theatres’ boom times, as tourists flock to our world-beating entertainment scene. The tourists aren’t here this year, so venues have to work even harder to get UK audiences in- and it’s not easy in a heatwave as we’ve had this last week, even in normal times. Theatres will be more than ever subject to last-minute booking which brings uncertainty as to their financial projections, and may certainly cause some producers to slash ticket prices in a panic to get any price for a seat. I hope this won’t happen, but rising case numbers and extreme weather make this more likely. I hope not, but,….

Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk presentation highlights concerns and causes for optimism

On Tuesday 20th July at 4.00pm, Claire Appleby, Architectural Advisor at Theatres Trust presented a hugely engaging and exhaustive (but not exhausting) overview of Theatres at Risk in the UK, highlighting successes and losses and pointing up where there is hope of revival. Claire’s passion, knowledge, focus and love of her subject helped her audience enjoy the event in ways that many other presenters could not have achieved.

The Theatres Trust was established 60 years ago, as a response to the loss of over 800 theatres across the UK in the years prior to its establishment, and during its lifetime has put its authoritative weight behind many community and arts groups in saving theatres from the wrecker’s ball.

It is worth remembering that the Theatres Trust’s involvement in supporting retention, revival and reuse has contributed to 80 out of 177 theatres being open for performance or other use since the Theatres at Risk Register started fifteen years ago.

Claire talked us through the 31 theatres which are on the 2021 Theatres at Risk Register, an annual event which aims to publicise our irreplaceable theatre heritage. The list has at its core a number of theatres which are unused, hastening decline through decay- frustratingly, many have been on this annual list every year since its inception in 2006. But one of the great benefits of the list is that it sparks public attention and concern- and in some cases, spurs further efforts to retain them.

Claire described the way the list was created, with theatres being given a 1-3 (3 being the highest) score in each of three categories – Community Value (the theatre must have the potential to be returned to theatre use and have potential to benefit its locality), Star Rating (listed status which recognises great architecture or otherwise significant buildings) and Risk Factor (whether the building has operational issues, is vacant, deteriorating, vulnerable to redevelopment) .

Brighton Hippodrome, currently on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk 2021 list

The really valuable thing about a theatre’s score from this assessment therefore highlights the theatres most at risk, of most architectural value and with the most potential to be returned to theatre use. So, actually, its a really positive and forward-thinking way to identify an at risk building which gives it a better chance to be successfully brought back into use.

Further to this, in 2019 the Trust set up the Theatres at Risk Capacity Fund which is supported by a small number of organisations who provide funding sums. These are allocated as small-scale grants to theatres at the initial stages of their rehabilitation journey. These funds help groups pay for the very early-stages work which is almost impossible to fund elsewhere these days- things like exploratory work, business advice, planning advice, consultancy, viability studies, etc. In its three years of operation, the fund has benefitted 15 theatres at risk with funds totalling £203,000.

Claire’s 100-minute marathon was certainly a tale of highs and lows, with several theatres on the brink of making strides forward, including the vandalised-by-bulldozer Derby Hippodrome which currently exists without a roof, . On the other end of the scale, several venues were teetering on the edge of demolition, which is most regrettable, the worst loss of which is the fabulous 1500-seat Dudley Hippodrome, which the Council has received £25million from central funds to demolish it and build a college. This effectively leaves the town without a fit-for purpose theatre space, the old Town Hall which is sometimes used for events has no raked seating and draws endless complaints from customers. While its still standing, we can hope. Similarly, The Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green, London has been slated for demolition, although the decision has recently been recalled so there is a glimmer of hope there.

The one addition to the 2021 list was the CoOp Hall in Ramsbottom, which is an 1870s music hall unused since 1944. A recent rediscovery in remarkably good condition, it was originally slated for housing redevelopment, but thankfully all concerned move quickly, Remains . Bury council took swift action to protect the building, Theatres Trust applied for listed status, and much more work has been done to secure the building’s survival, including the local preservation group having just been allotted an award from the Architectural Heritage Fund

2020-21 has obviously been a particularly difficult year for all venues, especially disused buildings of all types, and therefore the work of the Trust’s Theatres at Risk program has become even more important.

The art of reviving a theatre- and it is most definitely an art- involves establishing, nurturing and funding a complex network of relationships between owners, landlords, leaseholders, developers, community groups, councils, arts organisations, potential grant aiders and potential supporters. The Trust’s skill, perseverance and diligence in its work in this area is not to be underestimated!

What the Theatres Trust has demonstrated is that by using their status and authority in considered and constructive ways, together with targeted grants from supportive funders they can immeasurably help those “on the ground” with the spirt and will but little experience tap into the support that they need to be able to create compelling applications for planning, listing and funding, and by opening doors to experience through early seed funding, they are actively contributing to reviving as many of our irreplaceable theatres as possible, and for that they deserve our praise and gratitude.