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Touring theatre fears for its future

Gillian Hambleton, artistic director of the Northumberland Theatre Company, says the funding cut makes it 'very difficult'.

Gillian Hambleton, artistic director of the Northumberland Theatre Company, says the funding cut makes it 'very difficult'.

The long-term future of a professional small touring theatre group is ‘looking bleak’ after missing out on vital funding, it has been claimed.

Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) was told last week that it will not receive support from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio (NPO) scheme from 2015 to 2018.

It is another blow for the organisation which, in April 2012, lost all of its annual Arts Council cash following the creation of the NPO.

Establish in 1978, the company’s venues are predominantly village halls and community centres in rural villages in the north east region and Scottish Borders.

NTC’s artistic director Gillian Hambleton has accused the Arts Council of not supporting rural theatre companies and warns that the group’s existence is uncertain.

But she has said the show will go on until spring next year at the very least, with the company set to embark on a series of tours, including a Christmas production.

“We were not surprised that we missed out on the funding, but we are disappointed,” said Ms Hambleton.

“It is not all doom and gloom for this year, as we will be putting on three or four shows up until April, but how much longer can we continue to do it? That is the major problem and the long-term future is looking bleak.

“We will meet the board and see what the way forward is. Nothing has been determined, but it is very difficult.

“It is clear that smaller companies that work in rural areas have been the target of the cuts and are not a priority for the Arts Council.

“Hexham’s Théâtre Sans Frontières, for example, has lost out as well and we have worked out that the North East as a whole only received six per cent of the funding, which is shocking.”

NTC’s four members of staff have been working on a part-time basis and Gillian, who says the company has been living a hand-to-mouth existence, fears the hours will have to be slashed further still.

Since the cut in 2012, NTC has raised more than £170,000 to keep it going and it looks like such efforts will be needed yet again.

 

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