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Theatre facing final curtain if council does not continue financial support

PUBLISHED: 06:57 05 January 2019

Debbie Thompson, theatre director of St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth Picture: Nick Butcher

Debbie Thompson, theatre director of St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

A coastal theatre could be facing its final curtain if council bosses do not intervene with financial support.

St George's Theatre in Great YarmouthPhoto: George RyanSt George's Theatre in Great YarmouthPhoto: George Ryan

St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth is currently faced with grave financial difficulties, with a £28,000 hole in its finances placing its future in jeopardy.

In a confidential report to Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s policy and resources committee on Friday January 11 - seen by this newspaper - council bosses have warned that should it not step in, the theatre could close.

The report says: “Should members choose not to continue providing financial support to St George’s then it is probable that the trust will close its operations and leave remaining debt.

“In addition to this, the chapel and pavilion buildings would be passed back into the care of the borough council. This brings with it financial liabilities.”

The report, from Michelle Burdett, the council’s head of inward investment, asks members to agree to further support the theatre trust, with more than £130,000 of further funding.

This figure is broken down as follows:

• A grant of £27,000 for the remainder of this financial year

• Management fees of £25,000 for 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years

• An additional £80,000 split across 2019/20 and 2020/21 as match funding for an Arts Councils bid

It also asks them to agree to write off £21,000 of electricity debt accumulated by the theatre over the past year.

As it stands, the council provides the theatre trust with an annual £20,000 management fee and in October 2018 also set aside a £33,000 emergency fund to help with costs of the winter season and the pantomime.

The financial struggles at the theatre have been well documented, with its café ceasing to sell food and lunches in October as a cost saving measure.

Theatre director Debbie Thompson said: “We have just had a fabulous panto run with many packed houses and brilliant audience feedback, showing the affection that St George’s Theatre is held in by the people of the borough.

“Running a year-round arts venue is always challenging financially and we have been carrying problems from the renovation of the theatre, such as utilities not being properly billed over several years.

“It has also taken time to learn the right type of shows to run so that what we offer has the right balance of popular shows and new experiences local people can’t get elsewhere, like our community shows and youth theatre groups.

“We are taking steps to reduce costs and believe if we can make a fresh start we can ensure the show goes on for Great Yarmouth audiences.”

A spokesman for Great Yarmouth Borough Council declined to comment on the contents of the report, as it is a confidential paper.

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