Urgent financial support is needed for theatres, museums and leisure centres facing an ‘existential threat’ from the cost-of-living crisis, MPs say today.

The Report warns that the Government needs to tackle geographical funding imbalances for arts and culture if it is to fulfil its commitment to ‘levelling up’ the UK.

This Report from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee follows an inquiry looking at whether funding for cultural initiatives has been reaching areas that historically have missed out, and the role creative talent and businesses could play in revitalising public spaces post-pandemic.

Amid the cost-of-living crisis, the Committee calls on the Government to urgently bring forward targeted support, such as through VAT or business rate relief, to cultural organisations to prevent ‘exacerbating long-term scarring’ of those already hit hard by Covid.

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The Northern Echo approached 17 North East theatres about the issue to ask how this will affect them directly and whether this is enough to undo the damage to the entertainment industry caused by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

The Northern Echo: Interior of The Majestic Theatre, DarlingtonInterior of The Majestic Theatre, Darlington (Image: The Majestic Theatre)

The Majestic Theatre – Darlington is an independent theatre in Darlington town centre which specialises in pantomime ad has a capacity for 290.

Hayley Warters, Lyall Events & entertainment director at The Majestic Theatre, said: “I think to keep the culture of theatre alive all venues need help and support. However, I also believe that some venues may need more help than others. Especially when some are independently run, and others are council lead. I'm happy for all venues that get support, but it does feel very frustrating when a council lead venue can receive funding and the independents receive nothing.

“If anything, independent businesses have to work even harder to build their team and they could benefit from as much support as possible. Especially when they are keeping the culture of their venue and the arts alive. Independent places, if anything, may have more passion than most behind their work and some of us do it for pennies. But unfortunately, the venues become neglected which is heart-breaking. Funding for us would be received with some much love and spent where it is needed.”

The Northern Echo: The cast of Dick Whittington at The Majestic Theatre in Darlington in December 2021 before the performances had to be cancelled due to the spread of CovidThe cast of Dick Whittington at The Majestic Theatre in Darlington in December 2021 before the performances had to be cancelled due to the spread of Covid (Image: Josh Ryan)

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The Northern Echo: Interior shot of The Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond in North YorkshireInterior shot of The Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond in North Yorkshire (Image: The Georgian Theatre Royal Richmond)

The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond is an independent theatre in North Yorkshire, and a popular venue for small-scale touring productions and home to Richmond Amateur Dramatics Society.

Clare Allen, theatre manager at The Georgian Theatre Royal, said: “Whilst the historic significance of The Georgian Theatre Royal is its strength, its small seating capacity limits its earned income. Funding is crucial to support the preservation of the building, the rise in running costs, and to ensure that the Theatre can continue to provide top-quality, live performances at affordable ticket prices.

“Involvement with and an enjoyment of the arts enriches any society and it is particularly important during times of austerity that people can continue to engage with a wide range of cultural and artistic events and activities.”

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Newcastle Theatre Royal is one of the largest theatres in our region, hosting multiple large-scale touring productions per year including shows such as; The Book of Mormon and Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. It has a capacity of 1,294.

Marianne Locatori, chief executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal said: “Theatres and cultural venues are still in a recovery period following the pandemic, but now face further challenges to tackle the potential impact of the mounting cost-of-living and significantly increased energy and running costs.

“At a time when cultural organisations are still in the early stages of what will be a long and challenging journey to rebuild audiences to pre-pandemic levels, it is key that targeted support is distributed to address regional imbalances and increased creative training and education to ensure the survival of local cultural institutions.

“Whilst Newcastle Theatre Royal does not receive any regular funding, as a registered charity, we know value that creativity and culture brings to our communities, not only for entertainment, but for health, well-being and community connection. The North East is home to world class arts organisations, and we are proud to be part of such a strong and vibrant cultural offer for the region, so we welcome this call from the DCSM Committee.”

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DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said: “Local museums, galleries and theatres have a huge role to play in regenerating high streets and town centres away from the big cities, but they run up against pervasive and persistent barriers to their success.

“With spiralling energy bills exacerbating the scars inflicted by the pandemic, the Government must come forward with targeted support to ensure local organisations are not hit by a wave of closures at a time when art and culture is more important than ever in providing people with an escape from the harsh realities of the cost-of-living crisis.”

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