VOTE: Chichester Festival Theatre facing dramatic cutbacks in funding for the future

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Serious concern has been raised over the future of Chichester Festival Theatre’s community work – because its funding is set to be cut.

The phenomenally-successful CFT has said it is concerned by cuts to its funding announced by West Sussex County Council which could see it receive less than a third of the funding it was given four years ago.

And it could face a double blow with reduced funding from the Arts Council.

The theatre’s executive director Alan Finch said it had serious concerns about the cuts, which were much more savage than predicted.

“Arts Council England has announced 6.9 per cent cuts nationally, and the proposed county council cut is much deeper than the 20 per cent we had anticipated.

“We will need to consider the impact the proposed cuts would have.

“The success of the theatre’s operating model in recent years is directly attributable to the subsidies that enable artistic risk-taking, and an expanding regional education outreach programme. “During 2010, we will have attracted more than 313,000 people to our shows, provided more than 37,000 young people with engagement in arts-based learning opportunities and contributed significantly to the local economy.

“We would need to review our plans for 2011 and discuss the implications with all our funding partners. The proposed cut is a serious concern for our ongoing work.”

As part of its £75m funding cuts programme, West Sussex County Council is planning a 63 per cent cut in pubic subsidy for the CFT.

WSCC suggested a subsidy of £80,000 for the next three years from 2011-2012. The level of funding has dropped steadily from 2006 when it was getting a subsidy of £300,000 from the council. For the 2009-2010 period it received £217,000.

The theatre said the county council had been a long-term funding partner of the theatre, with Chichester District Council, and that its combined contributions helped it ‘leverage’ £1.6m of funding from the government-run Arts Council for England.

The theatre said that since taking over in 2006, the current management team had increased audiences by more than 90 per cent, with numerous productions transferring to the West End.

It said that for each £1 invested by the county and district councils, and other funding partners, this had resulted in significantly-increased returns.

The management team is now working on its application to Arts Council England for funding from 2012 and said it needed to demonstrate an on-going commitment from its audiences, sponsors and public-sector partners such as the county and district council.

And although the county council’s funding suggestions were at a ‘substantially lower’ level than before, its support was still seen as a boost to the funding application.

In the past, the county council has said supporting the theatre was important because of the significant economic benefits the CFT brings to the area.

Details of funding have not yet been finalised, and more meetings will take place in January before a final decision is taken.

For more details see www.westsussex.gov.uk