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Major theatres get big grants from Recovery Fund

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre will receive £2,854,444 from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund, the largest hand-out in the North in the latest round of Arts Council-administered money

This round of emergency funding has offered grants of more than £1m to the larger building-based theatres. Bolton Octagon (£620,232), which was left out of previous awards, is the only one today below the million mark.

Other recipients include Leeds Grand and Opera House (£1,545,163); Leeds Playhouse (£2,381,547) and Sheffield Theatres (£2,246,000).

The government says millions more will be announced in coming weeks: "The certainty and security provided by these grants will help these organisations keep going and create more opportunities for freelancers."

Royal Exchange trustees chairman Ben Caldwell said: ”The impact of this pandemic on our company and our industry has been devastating. This grant is a critical investment that will allow us to reignite our unique theatre.”

There was major relief at Bolton Octagon, where the pandemic ruined the opening of the refurbished theatre in July and led to a desperate crowd-funding campaign to keep the theatre alive.

The Octagon was left out of the initial round of grants to larger theatres, but the recovery fund has now come through with a major grant that will  “support the theatre’s immediate survival through the most challenging year in the organisation’s history.”

Chief executive Roddy Gauld said: “I’m absolutely relieved and delighted that we’ve been awarded this lifeline. This year was due to be our big moment as we reopened after two years of reconstruction. Instead, due to the pandemic, we’ve lost most of our income this year. This grant means we have the financial stability we need to open the doors in early 2021.”

He warned though that the new, higher-level pandemic restrictions mighht put back the reopening date slightly. “Bolton has had the toughest restrictions in the country and the town has been hit hard. So our reopening will be an important step in Bolton’s recovery.

“Now that our future is secure until April, we can think more about what the future holds. When we open, we’ll need to leave most seats empty. But with this news today, and with the ongoing commitment of all our audiences and supporters, we’ll fight on.”

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