At the start of the (much anticipated) break, my family and I upheld our long standing tradition of going to a Pantomime. As with many other families in Britain, this is tradition for us- it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without “He’s behind you!” This year however we made a change in our venue. Normally, we would go to Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre, as it has a large 1,200 seat auditorium and attracts names such as Stephen Mulhern and Gareth Gates-but this year we decided to explore the local pantomime scene and therefore booked seats at the Theatre Royal, a small yet relatively well-known theatre in Margate.
Having been to this theatre many times before for various events, we immediately went on a “name hunt”, as theatre-goers can sponsor a seat and have their name or a message engraved on the back. There are many famous names, such as Judi Dench and Prunella Scales, and we always have great fun looking on the back of our own seats. As I was looking around, I noticed that many did not have actual names on, but rather signs such as “Help Conserve This Lovely Theatre”. I was intrigued and, as I discovered after further investigation (and as you can read on their website) the theatre relies on support from Thanet District Council, Children in Need, Tesco Charity Trust, The Prince’s Foundation for Children, the Arts and Heritage Lottery Fund and many more organisations just to be able to open their doors to the public all year round.
When we consider cuts in spending, I believe we concentrate on more discussed mainstream issues such as education or benefits. Yes the Arts have been considered, but are often overlooked. The Stage reports that the current amount spent on culture per resident each week in England is just 16p, and in some areas local authorities are investing 1p or less per resident per week. Somerset County Council axed its regular arts funding from 2011 and in 2013 Westminster City Council proposed to cut its entire budget for the arts by 2014/15.
A new campaign has recently (December 2014) been launched by The National Campaign for the Arts called 50p for Culture. It aims to put pressure on local officials to push general culture funding in local areas up to 50p per person per week- you can find out how much is set aside for culture in your local area by simply putting in your postcode, and compare this to the national average.
Theatre in general, but especially smaller theatres need long term help and deserve more of a platform- just because they are small doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a voice. I would urge you therefore to get educated on how much your council are putting aside for culture in your area and to investigate the local theatre near you- you never know, you may discover a hidden gem.