Business of culture booming in Chichester

Big success stories for Chichester’s two major cultural attractions are being celebrated – despite drastic cuts in public subsidies.

Directors of both the Festival Theatre and the Pallant House Gallery presented their annual reports for 2011-12 to the district council.

Councillors heard that 200,731 tickets were issued for Festival 2011, compared with 141,800 for Festival 2006. Last year’s total was 2,000 fewer than in 2010, but one per cent more than the budgeted seating capacity.

The theatre’s executive director, Alan Finch, said everyone was learning to live on less public subsidy. West Sussex County Council’s grant was reduced quite severely, and Arts Council grants were also reduced.

“But we have recently won a new three-year agreement from the Arts Council which will see an uplift in year three,” said Mr Finch.

“This slight increase is bucking the trend of awards to most regional theatres.”

Mr Finch told the committee the theatre had been staring at a deficit budget, but because of its success in transferring productions to London it was in the happy position of being able to turn a deficit budget to near break even for the year.

And Pallant House Gallery director Stefan van Raay said they were looking at a very successful year, with more than 80,000 visitors – an increase of 30 per cent on the year before.

“This is local people, regional people, and people from all over the country – and in many cases from all over the world,” he told the overview and scrutiny committee.

In the gallery’s case, Arts Council support had been cut by 15 per cent to £93,000 for the year.

However, the year was healthy from a financial point of view and they hoped in the next four to five years to build up a reserve fund.

They could only start thinking about this now, after completing the gallery’s building project.

Committee member Cllr Julie Tassell said: “We are lucky to have such a brilliant theatre and brilliant art gallery. I’m sure they do wonders in bringing in the tourists.”