Monday, 23 February 2015

Arts Lab at Dartington invite Emma Holbrook and Susanna Mo to present their film documentary on Arts Council cuts "Making the Cut" Kingsbridge Inn Totnes Sunday 22 February 2015

"Making the Cut"
Producers: Emma Holbrook, Susanna Mo
Arts Lab at Dartington: Sam Richards

On Sunday evening at the Kingsbridge Inn in Totnes Emma Holbrook and Susanna Mo from Taunton presented their 40 minute documentary "Making the Cut". The film was inspired by the financial difficulties and sudden closure of the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton. This was an example of the effects of the 2010 spending review which cut the Arts Council England's budget by more than a quarter.

Artists, students, teachers, directors and theatre managers all appeared on screen to emphasise the cost to the arts and to local communities. The short term effect of the loss of a unique local amenity was considered, as well as the long-term cost of removing the facility for aspiring actors and directors to gain experience and develop their craft.

All the ancillary aspects of theatre production were also discussed, including set-building, lighting, and stage-management. Without medium scale local theatres, opportunities in these professions are also lost. Finally, representatives of local businesses explained the value to the local economy of a subsidised arts venue to serve the community and draw local residents into the town centre.

The screening was followed by a lively discussion about the future of theatre and arts in this country. Sam Richards of "Arts Lab at Dartington" was on hand to facilitate exchange of ideas.

Lively audience participation

This excellent documentary took Emma Holbrook and Susanna Mo two years to produce. The observations of many experts in arts and the theatre - as well as ordinary members of the public, affected by the cuts - are crystallised into a compelling forty minute presentation.

Further screenings are planned for various venues in the South West.

Further details coming to the 'Making the Cut' facebook page

Background

In 1977 Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy "The Norman Conquests" toured Britain for the first time. Included in the itinerary was a newly completed 350 seat venue, The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton. Taunton Theatre Trust had leased the land (Coal Orchard) from Taunton Deane Borough Council in 1975 and built the theatre alongside the Old Brewery House social club.

For 36 years the building was used as a venue for theatre and music shows, and as an art centre for the surrounding community. The Arts Council England provided funding to help the Brewhouse break even while the theatre's facilities were being used to the full benefit of performing artists and the local community.

In 2005 the Arts Council announced that their funding would cease from 2006. Robert Miles was appointed as Theatre Director, and Taunton Deane Borough Council were persuaded to provide £152,000 per year to keep the theatre open. Somerset County Council contributed a further £27,000 per year

By 2009 Robert Miles had to admit that, even with the funding from local authorities, the theatre had a shortfall in funding of £250,000. An application was made to the Arts Council for £260,000.

After two years the application was rejected. This followed George Osbourne's spending review in October 2010, which included a cut in the Arts Council's budget from £449 million to £349 million per year by 2014.

In February 2011 Somerset County Council voted by a majority of seven councillors to make cuts to council expenditure of £43 million, including all of its £158,800 commitment to Somerset theatres. That was the end of the £27,000 per year which went to the Brewhouse Theatre.

By February 2013, credit ran out and The Brewhouse closed. All public performances and related community events at the theatre had to stop. The administration of the venue was taken over by international accountancy firm, Binder Dijker Otte & Co (which is now merged with Pannell Kerr Forster and known simply as BDO).

By the end of February the borough council had agreed to continue their grant of £152,000 per year, and also authorised an emergency payment of £35,000, to protect the building for future use. (The Coal Meadow itself remained in council ownership.) Outstanding debts to advance ticket holders were £82,000 and debts to artists were £129,000.

For the remainder of 2013, petitions and demonstrations in Taunton sustained awareness of the theatre's closure, while Taunton Deane Borough Council continued to negotiate with BDO to buy the building. In October 2013 an agreement was reached, and the Brewhouse became the property of Taunton Deane Borough Council.

By December Taunton Deane Borough Council were able to enter into a five-year lease agreement with a not-for-profit community organisation called "Taunton Theatre Association". The group took over in February 2014, and the first amateur production was staged in April.

The current production, which opens on Tuesday 3 March 2015 is another Alan Ayckbourn work. The theatre company, Taunton Thespians, are no doubt being ironic in their choice of Ayckbourn's 1986 adaptation of Evans & Valentine's 1922 play - "Tons of Money".

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