Three theatre organisations that were made funding offers last year have not been accepted into Arts Council England’s national portfolio.
Three theatre organisations accepted into Arts Council England’s (ACE) national portfolio for 2018-22 have had their funding offers cancelled, AP can reveal.
The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury, Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter and Zendeh Productions in Newcastle were told their applications had been successful last summer, but have not officially joined the portfolio.
The funding agreement for Bike Shed Theatre was voided after the theatre announced plans to close its venue due to financial difficulties and produce work in new locations. Director David Lockwood has slammed ACE for failing his company when it was most in need of support.
“ACE are much more inclined to associate themselves with success than to support failure,” he told AP. “When you’re considered a success – as we were two years ago – you can’t keep them away. When you’re struggling, and need them most, they drop you like you’re toxic.”
The Roses Theatre has also expressed its disappointment at ACE’s decision to withdraw funding, which the funder said was made after the theatre failed to demonstrate that it could meet the required criteria for National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs).
The third company, Newcastle-based company Zendeh Productions has gone into liquidation.
The Roses Theatre was initially offered £85k a year by ACE, but was told it would not be entering the portfolio at the end of March – days before the start of the new financial year.
The news follows a tumultuous few years for the venue. A capital overspend in 2016 led to a deficit of £135k, and it spent six months without a director in 2017, following the shock departure of Chief Executive Sarah Casey after just five months in post.
Explaining why the organisation was dropped from the portfolio, ACE said: “Funding agreements are dependent on receipt of a satisfactory business plan with associated plans and policies that cover areas such as audience and engagement, digital, environmental action, equal opportunities and equality action.
“The Roses weren’t able to demonstrate through the negotiation period that they could meet the criteria required of National Portfolio Organisations.”
A spokesperson for the theatre told AP the decision to withdraw NPO funding was a “great disappointment”. It means a loss of 7% of the theatre’s annual turnover, although ACE has offered it £64k in transition funding for the current year.
The spokesperson added the Tewkesbury venue had recovered from its losses in 2016, and is currently on course to make a small surplus. They said transition funding will relieve the loss of NPO funding to some extent but losing money “always makes things very difficult”.
“In the longer term, the theatre has to deal with the loss of the full grant it was expecting,” they added.
Former Chief Executive of Cheltenham Everyman Theatre Geoffrey Rowe was brought on board as Chief Executive of the theatre on an interim basis in January. He will be replaced at the end of July by Hannah Kester, currently Operations and Programming Manager at Brecon’s Theatre Brycheiniog.
Bike Shed Theatre
Bike Shed, a combined theatre and bar set up in 2010, announced in January this year that it would be closing its venue at the end of March.
It had been offered £75k a year standstill funding by ACE, but this was cancelled following the decision to close the venue.
Speaking about the closure at the time, Director David Lockwood said increased local competition meant it was not making enough money from the bar to support its artistic work, and the organisation did not want to compromise on quality.
“We’ve a few exciting ideas that we’d like to pursue outside the building,” he added.
Lockwood told AP the organisation wasn’t offered any transition funding from ACE or additional support, and that a number of attempts to reach out to the funder were ignored.
ACE told AP it did not offer transitional funding as the organisation withdrew before a funding agreement was signed.
Lockwood continued: “They’re also really, really bad at dealing with anything that falls outside their normal processes. So, even though on an individual level they can be brilliantly empathetic, the machine is programmed so tightly there’s no room for deviation.”
He added: “I had a really productive conversation with someone new at ACE yesterday, so I’m feeling much more positive.”
Zendeh Productions was offered the largest amount of annual funding from ACE – standstill funding of £100k a year.
The organisation’s financial situation over recent years remains unclear, but it put out a resolution to wind up and appointed voluntary liquidators in mid-April.
AP reached out to founder Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, whose LinkedIn page says she stopped being Artistic Director in February 2018, but did not hear back by the time of publication.