Arts Council England Backs Future of Coventry's Belgrade Theatre

Arts Council England Backs Future of Coventry's Belgrade Theatre

The Arts Council England (ACE) today pledged its ongoing support to Coventry's Belgrade Theatre by approving the venue's proposal for funding for the period 2015-2018.

Since 2009/10, the Belgrade Theatre has responded robustly to a sliding scale of reduced funding now amounting to a £363,000 reduction per annum and continues to work hard to replace this lost funding through philanthropy and commercial income generation. In 2014/15, the Belgrade Theatre earned 60% of its £5 million turnover in comparison to 45% of its £4 million turnover in 2008.

The Arts Council England funding grant represents 20% of the Belgrade's anticipated annual turnover for 2014/15 with a further 18.5% of this turnover coming from Coventry City Council.

The Belgrade's Artistic Director, Hamish Glen, commented, "It is a huge credit to the city and region that against very stiff competition the Belgrade has won its funding from the Arts Council. When I took over as Artistic Director 11 years ago my mission was to re-establish the Belgrade as a major producing house. In our application, showing the support of Coventry City Council and the people in the city and region, we proved that we have achieved that, and now our vision is to grow the reach, excellence and engagement of all the work that we produce and present. By funding us, ACE has in effect said it agrees with us and believes that we and our audiences will continue to grow. With ACE funding and with the ongoing support of Coventry City Council we look forward to producing and presenting the best theatre that we can, and delivering our ground-breaking community work to the people of Coventry and Warwickshire."

Executive Director of the Belgrade, Joanna Reid, added: "We are relieved and delighted at this news. Relieved because even though we have built a track record of increasing audiences by 55% since 2007 and reducing our reliance on public funding so that now we are earning 60% of our turnover, we are aware that ACE has had less money to award in this recent round of funding. This means that there were going to be losers all around the country, audiences whose access to arts and culture within a reasonable distance of their home will be severely restricted because an arts organisation has lost its funding and has to close or radically reduce its offering. We were nervous that despite our successes, the Belgrade might have been in the firing line. We are delighted to have secured this funding and to be continuing on our trajectory of growth."

"We are very proud of the success that the Theatre has achieved in repositioning itself since its reopening in 2007' added Stewart Fergusson, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Belgrade Theatre.

"This success has resulted in the Belgrade now being recognized as one of the leading producing theatres of the country, attracting quality artists and theatre companies to make work in and for this city and region. We are key players in the city and the region's economy but we are reliant on public funding to give us the means to play to our strengths and to deliver much needed services so we very much welcome this news."

Arts Council England today (1 July) announced details of its investment plans for the next three years including its new national portfolio of arts organisations and museums. These plans include a new National Portfolio of 670 arts organisations (NPOs) and 21 partner museums (MPMs). The portfolio is reduced in size from 696 to 670. A total of 46 arts organisations will join the new portfolio whilst 58 organisations will leave. 75% of organisations featured in the new portfolio have received standstill funding. 37 organisations have seen reductions in funding.

The Belgrade Theatre

The Belgrade Theatre is the major arts and cultural facility in Coventry and the only building-based professional producing theatre company in the city. In addition to producing its own plays the Belgrade presents touring shows, which include a range of range of drama, family shows, music, comedy and dance.

The Belgrade receives revenue funding from Coventry City Council and Arts Council England. The Arts Council England funding grant represents 20% of the Belgrade's anticipated annual turnover for 2014/15 with a further 18.5% of anticipated turnover coming from Coventry City Council.

Since 2009/10 the Belgrade Theatre has responded to a sliding scale of reduced funding now amounting to £363,000 reduction per annum which has had a significant impact upon the delivery of its artistic and educational programme. The Belgrade theatre continues to work hard to replace this lost funding by maximising its existing income streams and sourcing new forms of commercial income generation. In 2014/15, the Belgrade theatre earned 60% of its £5 million turnover in comparison to 45% of its £4 million turnover in 2008.

According to this year's annual report, the venue sold an additional 17,699 tickets compared to 2012/13. The report also states that the venue staged more than 70 productions and increased the overall number of performances from 398 to 421. Audience attendance figures increased by 10% overall with a total of 145,925 customers visiting the theatre in 2013/14 compared to 132,482 in 2012/13.

The Belgrade Community & Education Company:

The Belgrade Theatre Community & Education Company runs a range of community arts activities both at the theatre and in venues across the city.

Last year the C&E Company offered nearly 10,000 learning opportunities to young people, many of whom are at risk of social or educational exclusion, supporting their personal growth, opening up new opportunities for them, and generating audiences and creative professionals for the future.

In the 1960s the Belgrade started the ground-breaking Theatre-in-Education (TIE) movement, and the theatre's Community & Education Company continues to pioneer in-house and outreach projects which use the performing arts to develop communication skills, confidence, creative thinking, self-expression, problem solving and team working. The Belgrade Theatre will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of establishing its dedicated TiE company in 2015.

Arts Council England:

Arts Council England is the national development agency for the arts in England, distributing public money from the Government and the National Lottery. The National portfolio funding programme launched on 1 April 2012, replacing the regular funding programme which ended on 31 March 2012. The programme provided funding for a nation-wide portfolio of 696 organisations.

The next three-year programme of National portfolio funding will start on 1 April 2015, lasting until 31 March 2018. Applications to the programme opened on 7 January 2014. An estimated 900 arts organizations are believed to have submitted an application to be part of the new portfolio.

Photo Credit: Nicola Young

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