York Theatre Royal boosted by £324,289 in round two of Cultural Recovery Fund

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird: “Delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful”

YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £324,289 from the second round of the Government’s  Cultural Recovery Fund.

The St Leonard’s Place theatre is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from this tranche of awards, announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Friday, from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. 

“This award is critical to York Theatre Royal and will support the re-opening of the theatre in May with The Love Season,” says the theatre’s announcement. 

“We’re delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful,” says Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. “This award ensures that York Theatre Royal can look ahead to the future with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose as it helps us to play our role in supporting arts for the community in York.

“I would call this funding more about recovery and reopening, whereas the last round was still ‘emergency’ funding.”

Tom continued: “It’s brilliant news for us, and we’re obviously very chuffed as this £324,289 grant allows us to support The Love Season, which we’ll be announcing on April 7. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back to the theatre in May with an exciting and varied programme of work that celebrates what we’ve all been missing this past year; human connection, the live experience, and a sense of togetherness.”

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for The Love Season, to be announced on April 7

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in this round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund as a “much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead”.

This comes on top of more than £800 million in grants and loans awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The funding awarded on Friday is drawn from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

In the initial surge of the Covid-19 crisis, Arts Council England (ACE) set up a £160 million Emergency Response Fund package, with nearly 90 per cent coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support.

York Theatre Royal received £196,493 from ACE’s emergency fund to help to cover costs in the fallow months from last July to September 30. “The ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’,” said Tom at the time.

Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, part of The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, starting next month

Last October, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund to assist the theatre until March 31.

While the emergency and recovery funding has been vital, it has not prevented the Theatre Royal from having to cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – last September after extensive consultations, as well as cutting all ties with the neighbouring De Grey Rooms.

“You have to bear in mind that normally we have a £4.5 million turnover each year, with 89 per cent of our annual income being generated through selling tickets [combined with associated revenue streams, such as the bars and café],” says Tom.

“The problem with an old building that’s so huge and hard to heat is that it costs £475,000 a year just to keep it open, without staffing, to cover heating, lighting, water and safety.”

York Theatre Royal – the longest-running theatre in England outside London – hosted two socially distanced preview performances of The Travelling Pantomime last December but otherwise the main-house and Studio stages have been dark since March 15 last year.  

CharlesHutchPress will cover next Wednesday’s announcement of The Love Season – socially distanced and Covid-safe – with an interview with Tom Bird to follow. At the core of the season will be Coronation Street and Broadchurch alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh starring in her husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…from June 1 to 5.