Bury St Edmunds: Theatre Royal set to make £140k budget cuts including loss of four posts

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

A massive £140,000 is to be cut from the budget of a popular theatre in west Suffolk with four full-time posts set to be axed.

That was the stark message given last night by Karen Simpson, the new director of the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds.

It came as a taster was given of the forthcoming spring season which senior staff at the Westgate Street playhouse hope will help ensure the long-term future of the Georgian building.

The theatre’s senior official, who took up her post last month, said she was examining ways of working with other organisations to use the building.

And she said she had not ruled out the potential of linking up with other entertainment venues in the town centre, The Apex, and to continue to forge links with community groups using the Theatre Royal for their productions.

She said there was a huge gap between the playhouse’s revenue and expenditure which needed to be addressed.

“It’s a significant amount and it’s had an impact for the last three years but now there is a real need to get it right and it is imperative for the future of the theatre that we get our house in order. I am looking across the whole of the organisation and reviewing a significant part of our overheads.”

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

Talks have also been held with Greene King, the landlords of the theatre, and the National Trust which cares for the Grade I listed building.

“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.”

Some of the headline productions due at the theatre in the new year include the comedy Egusi Soup, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the world premier of This May Hurt A Bit.

Earlier in the day the theatre issued a statement to say it was dedicated to being “a vibrant and viable hub for arts and community, as it undertakes an organisational review.”

It added: “It will be taking the bold steps necessary to address the economic challenges, to ensure stability and sustainability.

“This restructure will enable the theatre to embrace its role as an artistically-led organisation and with a robust foundation to create work and support the many professional and non-professional companies with whom it works.

It has been an unsettled 18 months at the theatre with changes at board level, the departures of artistic director Colin Blumenau and chief executive Simon Daykin.

The appointment of the new director has resulted in her having to take immmediate action and make the savings.

She says she has no problems with celebrating the history of the building and using it to its best effect but she wants to refocus the theatre as a place for contemporary work and somewhere that offers something for audiences of all ages.