Minister says Colchester is a ‘cultural capital of the country’

Will Quince, Colchester MP

Will Quince, Colchester MP - Credit: Archant

Colchester is one of the cultural capitals of the country, an arts minister has said.

Ed Vaizey said the Mercury in the Essex town put theatre at the heart of the cultural life of the community it served and made work in Colchester that reached local audiences, while also generating critical attention both regionally and nationally.

He was answering a debate called by MP Will Quince, who told parliament that regional theatre fed and sustained the West End theatre land in London.

But he warned that theatres were reliant and on public subsidy, claiming that although theatres were becoming better at sourcing their own money very few regional venues could justify a claim to be profitable were all subsidies removed.

He urged that the pot of money that the Arts Council and the Government had at their disposal, which is “not limitless” but had increased by £10m in the spending review, should be used to fund some great restoration and innovative projects in our subsidised regional theatres outside London.


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“Investment in our theatres not only has a strong economic impact, but is critical to the health of the acting professions and the creative arts,” he said.

Mr Vaizey said culture did not begin and end in London.

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“There is a lively debate about the amount of funding that goes to London’s arts institutions as opposed to institutions that exist outside the capital.”

He said that the Arts Council had provided more than £150m to theatres throughout the country through a range of funding programmes last year, with about £100m going to theatres in the Arts Council’s national portfolio, including the Mercury theatre.

He added: “The artistic organisations in Colchester have worked out that by working together they make a more effective contribution than they do working individually. The Mercury puts theatre at the heart of the cultural life of the community it serves and makes work in Colchester that reaches local audiences and its community while also generating critical attention regionally and nationally.”

The theatre was last year awarded a grant of £400,000 from Arts Council England, towards the largest investment in the theatre since it opened in 1972. Mr Quince said; “We should be proud of having such a strong theatre scene in our capital, but great culture and theatre is not only for the great and the good in London. When regional theatre does well, our whole cultural scene benefits.”

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