there were mixed fortunes for the district last week when Arts Council England announced its three year funding - a touring company that visits village halls across Berwickshire has lost all its Arts Council funding as from next year, while the Maltings Theatre in Berwick has get a 300+ percentage increase.
News that the Northumberland Theatre Company is to lose its Art Council England funding, which was £337,000 last year, and will struggle to bring its productions to Berwickshire in future has been met with disappointment by many.
“The Arts Council announced massive funding cuts to some arts organisation, while actually increasing funding to others,” said one Longformacus resident.
“Sadly one of the groups to have ALL their funding withdrawn is the Northumberland Theatre Company NTC).
“The NTC have been coming to Longformacus for over 15 years, much to the delight of residents across the Berwickshire region.
“They are a small, lean, incredibly well-run organisation that visits our local halls providing top-quality theatre of every imaginable type.
“Over the years we have gone from having them visit once a year, to three regular slots - which indicates their popularity in this tiny community and the surrounding area.
“They offer a theatre experience that is completely different to big, city theatres, and yet no less professional.
“I think our upset is increased by the decision to give more funding to some other projects and comments made that suggest that “culling” some groups is just a useful cleaning up exercise.
“The NTC are vibrant and wonderful - and we would be happy to tell anyone about them.”
A spokesperson for Northumberland Theatre Company said: “We were devastated to hear the news that all our funding had been cut with effect from April 2012.
“This means that we will be touring throughout the forthcoming year with our productions ‘Tartuffe’, for which we have received Scottish Arts Council funding to tour village hall venues in Scotland, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Not Some Kind of Side Show’ our production celebrating the Paralympics but as of the next year we will have to seek alternative funding to continue our commitment to touring high quality professional theatre to rural communities and theatre-less zones, surely the embodiment of Arts Council England’s plan for Great Art For Everyone.
“We have been touring to the Scottish Borders and Berwickshire in particular, since 1984, most recently visiting Longformacus on a very regular basis and also taking shows to Coldstream, Eyemouth - most famously our production of ‘Get Up and Tie Your Fingers’ which was set in that community and reflected its history, and Lauder and Duns.
“We are very disappointed by the decision but determined to continue to provide a high quality professional theatre service to those remote communities for whom access to quality theatre would otherwise be denied.”
Last year, Northumberland Theatre Company received £45,000 from Arts Council England to buy a new truck to take its touring productions around rural village halls - now the touring theatre company doesn’t know it if is going to be able to afford to take the new truck on the road.
Winners in the Arts Council England lottery were The Maltings Theatre and Cinema, in Berwick.
Chief executive Miles Gregory says box office and bar takings have doubled in the past two and a half years.
“We’ve had Jason Manford here three times, we’re about to present Lee Evans, we’ve had Julian Clary,” Dr Gregory said.
“All of the big stand-up names are coming to this tiny venue on the Borders.
“We can’t offer an urban audience and we can’t offer a 1,000-seat theatre, but we can offer an extremely hospitable welcome to artists and audiences.
“Last week, we sold 1300 tickets and 12,000 people live in the town. I think it would be quite hard to better that frankly,” added Mr Gregory.
“It’s one of the poorest towns in the country.
“It’s got one of the lowest average wages in the country. Yet people come to the theatre regularly because we’re offering some magic.”
Over the next three years Arts Council funding for The Maltings will increase and by 2014 they will be getting £184,000 a year,for staffing, original theatre productions, a fellowship programme, a role curating three art galleries in the town and education and outreach work.