Theatre company fears for future after funding blow

Gillian Hambleton, Artistic Director of the Northumberland Theatre Company.
Gillian Hambleton, Artistic Director of the Northumberland Theatre Company.

The long-term future of a professional small-scale touring theatre group is ‘looking bleak’ after missing out on vital funding, it has been claimed.

Last week, Alnwick-based Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) was told that it will not receive support from Arts Council England’s National Portfolio (NPO) scheme from 2015 to 2018.

It is another blow for the organisation which, in April 2012, lost all of its annual Arts Council cash following the creation of the NPO.

Now, NTC’s artistic director Gillian Hambleton has accused the Council of not supporting rural theatre companies and admits that the group’s existence is uncertain.

But she has said that the show will go on until spring next year at the very least, with the company set to embark on a series of tours, including a Christmas production.

“We were not surprised that we missed out on the funding, but we are disappointed,” she said. “It is not all doom and gloom for this year, as we will be putting on three or four shows up until April, but how much longer can we continue to do it? That is the major problem and the long-term future is looking bleak.

“We will meet the board and see what the way forward is. Nothing has been determined, but it is very difficult.

“It is clear that smaller companies that work in rural areas have been the target of the cuts and are not a priority for the Arts Council.

“Hexham’s Théâtre Sans Frontières, for example, has lost out as well and we have worked out that the North East as a whole only received six per cent of the funding, which is shocking.”

NTC’s four members of staff have been working on a part-time basis and Gillian, who says the company has been living a hand-to-mouth existence, fears the hours will have to be slashed further still.

Since the cut in 2012, NTC has raised more than £170,000 to keep it going and it looks like such efforts will be needed yet again. To find out how to support NTC financially, visit northumberlandthea or call 01665 602586.