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London's smaller theatres 'insecure' over future

Story by Jack Foley

ALMOST half of London’s smaller theatres have admitted to feeling “insecure” about their financial future, a new study reveals.

What’s more, a third fear their venues could be sold.

The six month study, entitled Centre Stage, was conducted by The London Assembly and involved 55 theatres with a capacity no greater than 300 seats. It included venues such as the unfunded Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court and The Gate in Notting Hill, which is supported by Arts Council England.

It concluded that many of London’s 105 smaller capacity theatres “face serious potential threats to their existence and may be at risk of closing”. And it called on London Mayor Boris Johnson to appoint a new ambassador for small theatres and to offer City Hall as a venue for rehearsals.

The report also urged Transport for London to make it easier for small venues to advertise at Tube, rail and tram stations.

And it calls on Arts Council England (ACE) to do more to help, including encouraging bigger regularly funded theatres to make space available for smaller companies at affordable rates.

Other findings include…

- More than 85% of smaller theatres said they lacked rehearsal space and 34% feared the venue would be sold or converted.

- Many theatres said they failed to attract audiences because they relied on mailing lists and social media to market shows.

- Three-quarters of the 55 venues surveyed said they need to significantly upgrade or repair their buildings but 93% do not have the required funds.

London Assembly Member Tom Copley, who led the investigation, said: “Beyond the bright lights of the West End, there are theatres all across London which play an essential part in the cultural life of the capital.

“However, it is clear from our survey that they are facing real difficulties at the moment and many feel insecure about their future. It would be a terrible loss to the capital if these venues were allowed to disappear.”