Theatre for the Rich

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In November 2016 we heard about the Birmingham Rep having its funding cut from the local authority by more the 62%. Though with its international reputation and status the Rep could easily get that money back with just by a slight increase in ticket prices, but if they do that they risk pushing some people outside the threshold of being able to afford the enjoyment of theatre on that scale. Is it possible that over time theatre could become an exclusive club for the rich enough? Theatre regardless of the complaints about diversity has always aimed to be inclusive with its audiences and is one of the main reason theatres became subsidised. Right here in this moment one local authority is forcing a theatre into choosing their audience, is that fair?

With the end of the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Korea coming to a close this weekend it seems appropriate to mention that it is not just theatre that is affected by funding cuts. It seems that cuts in funding continued to be a running theme for 2017 as we heard about funding cuts for the next summer Olympics in 2020 with badminton seeing cuts of up to £2 million and cycling up to £4 million, with archery, fencing, weightlifting and wheelchair rugby all receiving no extra funding at all.

These sports are all expected to perform on the international stage to a high level with an expectation of bringing home more medals than in 2016, yet there will be no money available to coach individual to an international level. But these funding cuts can have their advantages, whereby less money means more pressure to perform well, while techniques may be developed the outcome will always be the same and most schools have a full sports programme where youngster can get involved and new talent is nurtured early on.

However when it comes to talent within theatre the story is very different in schools, drama has already be dropped through EBacc as a compulsory subject in schools so how can new talent be found and be nurtured if the subject is not funded on the curriculum properly with all additional funding for teacher training cut all together? Whatever funding is available to theatres probably won’t be available to nurture talent, and unlike sport the outcome will always be different. Every show needs a different same budget and different techniques need to be applied, with only the fundamentals of creativity remain the same.

Visualising the future of theatre and the arts with funding continuing to be cut, ticket prices rising to a point where only the rich can afford to see the performances. The number of rich people in our society is a percentage that wouldn’t fill all our theatres on a good night.

We must always remember that in a time of trouble, in the world in which we live and the damaged economic climate that we are experiencing, the arts and creative industry play a vital role in today’s communities. They don’t just serve as places of entertainment and education for audiences but more importantly they provide a much needed escape for a couple of hours from the real world, not just for the rich.