Theatre is not all about the West End, Colchester MP says ahead of debate to highlight importance of regional organisations

Hugh Bonneville performed at Colchester's Mercury Theatre before hitting the big time. Colchester M

Hugh Bonneville performed at Colchester's Mercury Theatre before hitting the big time. Colchester MP Will Quince is planning to mention the star in a debate about the importance of regional theatre Andy Kropa/Invision/AP - Credit: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

Theatre is not all about London, Colchester’s MP will say today in a debate in which he will highlight the boost shows bring to the local economy.

Will Quince has secured the parliamentary debate in the Westminster Hall debating chamber as MPs return to the House of Commons after the Christmas break.

He will highlight the role of organisations like the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, which he will point out was a training ground for Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville (left).

“The Mercury Theatre is going to get a big mention because of a lot of the great work it is doing,” Mr Quince said.

“They have ‘Made in Colchester’ and Hugh Bonneville started in the theatre. The Mercury has a really great story to tell.”

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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 he wanted to use the debate to highlight the importance of regional theatre both for “cultural enrichment” and how vital it is to regional economies.

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He said: “We focus a lot on London and the West End, which I guess is the premier league of theatre, but actually the West End is being fed by regional theatre and more and more shows are being created and formulated in regional theatre and then coming up.

“But also the amount of money that they drive in the local economy, it can be as much as £4 for every £1 invested in regional theatre.

“It is really celebrating the great work regional theatre does and money invested in the arts regionally goes a long way to boosting local economies, and cultural enrichment is a great thing.”

He said the debate was not an ask for more investment. “It’s not about investing more,” he said.

“The government is doing a lot already. It is a reminder to the Arts Council it isn’t all about London - they know this and they are doing a lot of work on it. They are doing a lot to support it.”

The Mercury Theatre’s Made in Colchester programme incubates and nurtures new talent in all areas of theatre.

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