For a time it looked bleak.
The long-term future of a popular and important arts company was thrown up in the air after drastic cuts to funding.
In May, a third straight rejection for cash by the Arts Council rubbed salt into already sore wounds.
Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) was hanging by a thread, with fears that its upcoming autumn production would be its last.
But now, after a period of fund-raising and securing key grants, a new script has been written – a script which tells of brighter times ahead for this group whose proud past spans more than three decades.
It means the show will go on, starting, as intended, with the autumn tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A series of peformances will start in Alnmouth on September 6 and run until the end of October, visiting close to 40 rural and small venues around the country along the way.
And when the curtain comes up on the production next month, it will be a welcome relief that all eyes will be fixed firmly on the stage, instead of staring at problems off it.
Gillian Hambleton, artistic director of NTC, said: “We are delighted to announce that, thanks to the wonderful support of the community and our persistent fund-raising efforts, the autumn tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is able to go ahead.
“Although fund-raising is a vital part of what we do, we are very much looking forward to getting back to our art.
“We’re over the moon to be on the road again with this very entertaining production – performed by a fantastic and energetic cast – taking theatre to hard to reach places and delighting local audiences along the way.”
A £14,500 grant earlier this year from the Community Foundation, which includes the Thriving Communities Fund, the Adderstone Fund and Leech Challenge Fund, helped NTC claw its way back from the brink and adapt to the new funding environment.
Then there was the ambitious 2012km cycle ride by the group’s chairman Neil Mundy, which raised close to £2,000 for the cause, before being match-funded through the Catalyst fund-raising scheme.
Another cash boost of £3,500, this time from the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation, enabled NTC to offer valuable acting experience to drama graduate Kylie Ann Ford, who will undergo an intensive training programme and be part of the Midsummer cast.
She will join regular actors Nigel Collins, Eleanor Dennison, Louis Roberts and Stephanie Butler for this colourful showing of Shakespeare’s classic tale.
Gillian said: “We’re extremely grateful to all our funders.”
Having been thrown a vital lifeline, NTC is looking to the future, drawing up an exciting three-year plan of projects.
It includes a winter tour, set to be an adaptation of Carol Ann Duffy’s Grimm Tales, as well as residencies, plays for children and young people, new writing, training opportunities for emerging theatre artists, devised and verbatim work, and festivals and collaborations.
NTC is not sitting on its laurels though and is actively seeking funding.
Gillian added: “All funding, large or small, is vital to us at the moment so we’re grateful to organisations and contributors for their continued support.”