• Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Linkedin
  • Share by email

CEO says ACE gave no feedback when delivering the news it will no longer be funding the company, but vows to create a happy ending before the closure later this year.

Unlimited Theatre performs How I Hacked My Way Into Space at Bluedot 2018
Unlimited Theatre performs How I Hacked My Way Into Space at Bluedot 2018

Nathan Whittaker via Flickr

Unlimited Theatre will close at the end of the year after 25 years, following the loss of its funding from Arts Council England (ACE).

The theatre company says the decision to close follows a detailed consultation between artists, staff and trustees, which concluded the loss of NPO funding has made its existing model “unsustainable”.

A member of ACE’s National Portfolio since 2008, Unlimited received £169,176 from the Arts Council in 2022/23. 


The Leeds-based charity, founded in 1997, is noted for its work with local artists and freelancers and last year adopted a shared artistic leadership model between six core artists.

Its closure makes it the latest arts organisation planning to wind down operations after the loss of ACE funding, following news from Oldham Coliseum Theatre earlier this week.

Speaking to Arts Professional, Unlimited’s CEO J Spooner, one of six artists that originally founded the company, said the loss of NPO funding was a “big part” of the decision to close the company.

“We’ve been through that process before, we’ve been project to project, we’ve been unfunded. We work at a scale now where in order to look after our most important asset – the people, that are the artists and producers that run the company – it’s not a sustainable model,” they explained.

Spooner added that ACE gave no explanation why Unlimited’s NPO application had been unsuccessful.  

“There was a party line of oversubscribed, that difficult decisions had to be made. But literally nothing else,” they said.

“All the feedback in our letter was good, so it was surprising to us. In our meeting with our relationship manager, the chair of our board said 'it feels a bit like being dumped but the other person won't tell you why'.

“We never had any indication at any stage that we weren’t anything other than a highly successful company, massively delivering on Let’s Create.”

Core artists of Unlimited Theatre Company, Photo: Lizzie Coombes

“The one piece of feedback that we all get as organisations over the years is that this is an unsustainable business model because you are over reliant on Arts Council funding,” Spooner added.

“But that’s the deal isn’t it? Otherwise, we could all go away and become commercial producing houses. But at that stage we make decisions based not on audiences and not on the work, but on bottom lines and profit rather than surplus and creating reserves.”

An ACE spokesperson said: “This will have been a difficult decision for the artists and producers who make up the Unlimited Theatre company to take, as well as upsetting for all those who work with them. This investment round was extremely competitive as we received a record number of applications.

“We recognise the valuable contribution that the company has made to the cultural sector, and we will continue to work with them up until the end of March as part of their current funding agreement.”

Winding down

Unlimited’s staff will be made redundant by the end of the year as part of the winding down process, Spooner said.

The company currently has four permanent members of staff, two producers and five retained freelance core artists, as well as other contracted freelancers.

 “I don't think [any current staff] will struggle to find future work, everyone is too brilliant at what they do not to be snapped up,” Spooner said.

“It’s a beautiful thing everyone will be staying with us through the year though to see the final programme be made.”

Unlimited Theatre company has applied for ACE’s transition funding and is expecting to hear if it will receive financial aid to support its winding down in the next couple of weeks.

A happy ending

Despite the announcement, Spooner told Arts Professional that Unlimited is using the annoucement as an opportunity to ensure the company goes out on a high.

“There is a quite liberating part of it, getting to create your own ending after 25 years,” they said.

“How many companies get to be around for this long? So we really want to celebrate that rather than make it about funding.”

Unlimited has announced plans for its final programme of work, the full details of which are available on its website.

Spooner said anyone looking to support the company can find further information on Unlimited’s social media pages.

“We’ve been going for a really long time, but this way we get to create a really positive, happy ending,” they said.