My Theatre Matters!
The cuts are targeted at urban areas where most funded theatres are located. As a result local theatres are facing a perfect storm: Arts Council cuts started in April 2011, more Arts Council England cuts came on top of these in April 2013, business sponsorship is declining and some local authorities are seeing arts funding as an easy target.
Somerset was first to announce 100% arts funding cut. Now Newcastle's Theatre Royal, Northern Stage and Live Theatre, Sheffield's Lyceum, Crucible and the Studio and Stoke-on-Trent’s New Vic Theatre have all been hit with cuts totalling around £200,000, after their respective local authorities approved budget proposals.
This is the context for the My Theatre Matters! campaign.
My Theatre Matters! brings together Equity, The Stage and the UK Theatre for the first time in a campaign to support funding for local theatres. The objective is to enable theatres to reach out to their audiences and engage them in campaigning to support their local theatres. Audience members love their local theatres and are proud of them. The campaign asks audience members to write to their local Council expressing that pride and inviting Councils to share in it. Over the whole of 2013 audience members in theatres across the UK will have access to postcards enabling them to sign up to the campaign and to write to their local council. But more importantly, they can sign up to the campaign via the dedicated My Theatre Matters! website. The website will collect the details of campaign supporters who can then be put in touch with local groups whenever a theatre is threatened with cuts.
Equity members are also ecouraged to sign up to the website, but we have a special role. The relationship between actor and audience is the very essence of theatre. Actors can carry the campaign message to their audiences in a unique way. A really effective way will be for a member of the company to give a curtain call speech at the end of the show.
The campaign has already got backing from a wide section of well-known performers including Adrian Lester, Victoria Wood, Alan Ayckbourn, Julie Walters, Alan Rickman, Alison Steadman, Anna Chancellor, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Tennant and more members are joining the campaign every day.
As Equity President Malcolm Sinclair has written on the My Theatre Matters! website: "The relationship between actor and audience is the essence of theatre so it seems to me to be entirely appropriate that the My Theatre Matters! campaign should be about mobilising audiences to defend their theatres from cuts. I hope every Equity member will get behind this campaign – but especially those currently working in theatre. This is about our right to work and if we won’t campaign save theatres who will?”
- Read the special briefing sheets for Equity Deputies and Equity Branch Secretaries.
- Follow the campaign on Twitter: @theatre_matters.
- Get the list of theatres signed up to the campaign.
- Watch the Arts Council England video on the value of public investment in the arts