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Volunteers sought to help run Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton

22 February 2013

The fight to rescue a Somerset theatre has started on the day after it announced that it is to close.

The Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre in Taunton has gone into administration with its board blaming "underfunding".

A campaign - Count Me In - has now been set up by the Taunton Association of Performing Arts who believe volunteers could keep the venue running.

Mark Dawson from the association said he was optimistic the Brewhouse could return to being a community theatre.

He said: "Firstly we need to rebuild that army of volunteers to help operate the place. The second but equally crucial thing is when the administrators go in.

"It is important they don't sell off all the equipment and furnishings inside the theatre, it's still got to be able to operate as a theatre."

'Untenable' financially

The venue employed 55 people who are being made redundant. Paul Birch, from the board of governors, said the financial position was "untenable".

He said: "In short, taking tickets sales and other revenue streams together, the Brewhouse raises about 60% of what it needs to keep going and with inadequate public investment it is impossible to achieve this."

Arts Council England withdrew regular funding to the Brewhouse in 2005 and Somerset County Council cut all its arts funding in 2010.

The theatre has been receiving an annual grant of £152,000 from Taunton Deane Borough Council which had been set to continue.

The leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council John Williams said there was cross-party support for the continued operation of the venue which many regarded as being "at the heart of the community".

"We have a vested interest as we own the freehold so we have a vested interest in what happens to the property."

Hilary Marshall, of the Wayfarers Pantomime Society, said: "We have done our shows there for goodness knows how many years. It's been a lovely family place to be.

"We'll not have a home now and we'll have to find somewhere else and rethink how we go ahead."

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