New tragedy for theatre company

Gillian Hambleton, Artistic Director of the Northumberland Theatre Company.
Gillian Hambleton, Artistic Director of the Northumberland Theatre Company.
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THE long-term future of an arts company could be left hanging in the balance after the Arts Council turned down a third funding bid.

It was announced yesterday that Northumberland Theatre Company’s (NTC) application to the Strategic Touring Fund failed, despite it being recommended for approval.

And for Alnwick-based NTC, it is the third time in a row a bid for money from the Arts Council has been unsuccessful.

In March last year, the annual funding as a National Portfolio Organisation was axed, after a joint submission with Alnwick Playhouse failed to tick all the boxes.

Later in 2011, a second bid to the Grants for the Arts pot was also rejected.

Neil Mundy, chairman of NTC, said: “After 33 years of delivering quality theatre to rural communities, we are not going to give up easily but we are deeply disappointed that we have not been awarded this funding.

“We were advised by the Arts Council that our application was recommended for funding but that ‘funds are limited and we had more good applications than we could fund’.

“We are still confident that our performances are of a high quality and are loved by our supporters but we must now consider our position very carefully and come to a decision on how to move forward.

“However, we are determined that our autumn tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will go ahead as planned.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have supported us through this difficult time, as well as our loyal audiences who return to see our performances time and time again. We are all truly grateful.”

Only nine of the 40 applicants to the fund were successful in their bids.

Another round of money will be available from the same fund this summer and NTC is looking to apply for that.

Until then, the company will be relying on grants from elsewhere to put its autumn programme on the road.

Artistic director Gillian Hambleton said: “It is just another disappointment for Northumberland.

“I don’t know what rural areas are going to get in the future.

“We are going to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but we just need to get a few more bits of money in place to make that happen.

“It will be a shorter tour than we anticipated, we had a full tour booked and didn’t want to disappoint people.

“We are hoping to re-apply to the Strategic Touring Fund in June and find out at the end of August.

“We’re just hoping we can rely on other pots of money until then.

“If that funding is successful, it will be for our Christmas and family shows.

“We keep getting knocked down and get back up again but if we don’t succeed in that it may be that we don’t get back up again.

“But we are looking to keep going as long as possible, we’re not going to give up.”

NTC takes its productions into rural areas and provides access to the arts for places which otherwise would not get the opportunity.

Gillian added: “It will be interesting to see which applications were funded and how and if anybody will be touring Northumberland.”

The company is based at Alnwick Playhouse and owns the building but Gillian said there was no concern at the moment that anything would happen to the theatre if the company was to fold in the future.

“It is something we need to discuss,” she said.

“But it is a case of let’s wait and see and let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, it is all for the future.”

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle said: “There have been a series of serious disappointments for NTC.

“I feel very sorry for them, they do excellent work in remote areas of the county.”

Lib Dem MP Sir Alan Beith said: “It is very disappointing news. I have had meetings with the Arts Council and they accept that NTC deserve funding.

“I will be getting in touch again to find a way of achieving funding for them.”