Bury St Edmunds: Redundancies are not a surprise - theatre volunteer

Karen Simpson is the new Executive Director of The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.

Karen Simpson is the new Executive Director of The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

The announcement that a town’s theatre needs to make savings, including through some redundancies, has not come as a surprise to everyone.

Yesterday, Karen Simpson, the new director of the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, said £140,000 had to be cut from the venue’s budget, with four full-time posts set to be axed.

It followed a statement which was issued by the theatre earlier in the day which said it was looking at how the theatre works, building on its core strengths of programming and supporting the creation of exciting theatre, but also “taking the bold steps necessary to address the economic challenges, to ensure stability and sustainability”.

Theatre Royal volunteer Julia Salmon, who is a member of the Theatre Royal Community Company, said: “Everybody is aware everything is done on a very tight budget and that’s been the case at the Theatre Royal for years, and the case for other provincial theatres.”

She added: “I’m not surprised at redundancies because it’s a sign of the times.”

She said Ms Simpson’s reputation among the volunteers was “she’s created a phenomenally positive impression as someone who’s really determined to make sure it does work”.

“She’s actually created a great deal of optimism. The issue of redundancy aside, everyone has been very impressed by the positive impact she’s had in a short period of time.”

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Ms Simpson said she was looking at a whole range of options to find the best way for the organisation to move forward, but said she could not comment on specifics yet.

She said £140,000 would need to be saved from next year’s budget in April and four out of 30 full and part-time staff posts would be cut.

“It will have a big impact and will be felt across all of the departments. I am also looking at the building and how we can be more resourceful with what we are doing but the important thing is that we act now. We are at the crossroads,” she said.

“I want to celebrate what we do here and we need to be able to open our doors to a wide cross section of the community and the new programme is a part of this which I feel is very exciting.

“We need to find ways of working with as many partnerships as possible and get quality work into the theatre which will be of benefit to us and our audiences.”

She has not ruled out the potential of linking up the Apex venue in Bury, but said their strength was being two distinct organisations.

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