Venue closes suddenly

...and more could follow as arts cuts bite

Windsor Arts Centre closed its doors suddenly on Friday, amid news of a financial crisis that could plunge the future of comedy shows there into doubt.

The unexpected move came as the Arts Council announced it would be scrapping its funding for the venue.

The quango is pulling the plug on nearly one in five of the theatres and arts organisations it supports across England, raising concerns about medium-sized venues nationwide

Earlier this month, Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree, another popular venue for touring comedy shows, also closed its doors because of financial woes.

Graham Steel, general manager of Windsor Arts Centre, said: ‘We're all very shocked, it wasn't something that we were expecting.’

He said he hoped the centre, which was due to play host to Josie Long, Jason Byrne and Stewart Lee early in 2008, would reopen.

‘At the moment the staff are dealing with the shock of the news,’ he told the BBC. ‘But there are enough people out there who are keen to have an arts centre - so fingers crossed.’

The situation could be repeated across the UK once the full impact of the Arts Council England’s withdrawal of swathes of its funding is known.

The body has sent letters to 194 organisations telling them that their grants not expected to be renewed, in most cases from next April, as it concentrates its funding on ‘excellence’ in large flagship projects.

Among the big losers is Brighton’s Komedia venue, which is Losing It entire £160,000 grant. It means it will no longer be able to produce theatre shows, although its comedy nights will be unaffected.

Exeter Northcott Theatre will lose its £547,000 from May 2009, and London’s Drill Hall, recently used to record much of Radio 4’s comedy output while Broadcasting House was being refurbished, will lose £250,000 from April.

Published: 18 Dec 2007

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