Sudbury/Bury St Edmunds: Quay Theatre sends reassuring message to Theatre Royal after Arts Council funding withdrawn

Bryn Hurren (chair of board of directors) and Nicki Murphy (Quay coordinator). Bryn Hurren (chair of board of directors) and Nicki Murphy (Quay coordinator).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
3:00 PM

As Bury’s Theatre Royal mourns the loss of 8% of its income, another of west Suffolk’s small venues is thriving despite receiving no Arts Council funding since 2008.

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The Theatre Royal has been left looking for alternative funding sources after it missed out on the latest round of Arts Council grants.

But the Quay Theatre in Sudbury has survived through several rocky patches during the past 30 years and has recently turned its fortunes around, helped only by a £35,000 annual grant from Babergh District Council and £9,500 from Sudbury Town Council.

According to Quay co-ordinator and board director Nicki Murphy, the theatre’s survival is largely down to a team of 50 volunteers, who have donated around 9,000 hours of work between them during the past year and have helped to pull the community venue back from the financial brink.

It costs £75,000 a year to keep the Quay open and the £30,000 shortfall is made up by hard-working fundraisers.

Ms Murphy said: “We were very sorry to hear that the Theatre Royal has had its funding cut.

“It isn’t easy and we have certainly had our issues in recent times which led to us having to make staff redundant three years ago – without volunteers, we would not be here.

“We survive mostly with in-house fundraising through concerts and events.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about house keeping and the way you organise the programming. For us it has been about offering a diverse programme that appeals to everyone.”

Bryn Hurren, chairman of the board, said without Arts Council funding, staff and volunteers had “mucked in and got on with it themselves”. This was now starting to pay dividends.

He added: “We have broadened our horizons as to what we put on, and we have made a huge effort to publicise ourselves better, both by using IT and by getting out into the local community.

“As a result, we have had lots of sell out shows recently that have turned a profit and we have gone more towards music, which has gone down very well with the public.

“It has been a lot of hard work but now that we are on the up, we have even been able to employ an extra person which has given us an uplift.

“We hope that Babergh will continue to fund us next year because we are a big success story for them.”

For its next fundraising performance, Quay Productions is set to stage Kennedy’s Children, from August 7 to 9. In the thought-provoking play, written by Robert Patrick, five Americans look back at their lifestyles in the 1960s. All monies raised from ticket sales will be donated straight to the theatre.

The Quay is also looking to raise an extra £35,000 this year through sponsorship to replace the theatre seating. For more information, call 01787 374745.

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