Theatre funding deal criticised

A CRUCIAL deal which will help keep the curtains up at a popular seaside theatre has been criticised for being “demeaning” to the arts.Tendring District Council will provide the trustees of the West Cliff Theatre in Tower Road, Clacton, with £70,000 over the next two financial years, with funding ceasing after 2008-9.

By Sharon Asplin

A CRUCIAL deal which will help keep the curtains up at a popular seaside theatre has been criticised for being “demeaning” to the arts.

Tendring District Council will provide the trustees of the West Cliff Theatre in Tower Road, Clacton, with £70,000 over the next two financial years, with funding ceasing after 2008-9.

But the amount - just a fraction of the sum given to another theatre by a neighbouring authority - has been criticised for not supporting a vital community venture and tourist attraction enough.


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Lawrie Payne, deputy leader of the Labour and Co-operative group on Tendring District Council, said: “A theatre which provides the service the West Cliff does requires financial support and I do have worries about their future when they won't even have that support to bolster them up.

“There is not enough live theatre in Tendring and the long-term future of the West Cliff should be of deep concern, it certainly is a concern of mine and as a district councillor I will continue to campaign for extra support. We should be looking at how we enhance arts facilities in Tendring, not demeaning them.”

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The council's current five-year funding agreement - which sees the West Cliff receive about £64,000 a year in return for a commitment to stage a summer show - is due to come to an end in spring 2007. There had been fears no further funding would be forthcoming but the funding package will provide a substantial saving to the council in future years.

The Mercury Theatre in Colchester currently receives £291,600 a year from Colchester Borough Council, which is thought to help attract £400,000 extra funding from other sources.

Mike Freeman, chairman of the West Cliff Theatre Trust, said the council's offer was generous and a welcome contribution to its future.

“I am pleased to report that this year's summer season is the best - both artistically and financially - for some years and we have now concluded negotiations for a winter version this year and summer 2007,” he said.

He explained the council grant - coupled with regular fundraising - would enable the theatre to meet its administrative overheads for the next two years.

But he admitted he was concerned about the future, particularly maintaining the fabric of the old building.

Terry Allen, Conservative leader of the council, added the council faced tough challenges in terms of its future financial position and service delivery choices.

“We are very pleased that given this situation we are still able to provide substantial financial support to the West Cliff Theatre for the next two years,” he said.

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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