London’s small theatres are under threat and need support says London Assembly report


South West London has a number of theatres with less than 300 seats.


By SWLondoner staff

Small theatres across London feel insecure about their financial future and do not have the funds to upgrade their buildings, according to a study by the London Assembly.

There are 105 small theatres across London – that is those with a capacity no greater than 300 seats – including The Finborough Theatre in Earls Court and Theatre 503 in Putney.

The six month study, led by London Assembly member Tom Copley, found that many of the theatres face serious potential threats to their existence and may be at risk of closing.

The report called for a fund to be set up specifically for these venues, and for an ambassador for small theatres to be appointed.

Other issues outlined in the report included problems finding rehearsal space, with 85% of those questioned saying locating affordable rehearsal room is difficult.

The need to renovate buildings was also outlined as a serious medium to long-term risk, as small theatres find it very difficult to raise money for capital investment.

In a submission to the report, Arts Council England said that cuts in public funding had proved tough for small theatres.

“Cuts in public funding and the withdrawal of local authority funding are currently, and are likely to continue to be, an on-going challenge for many theatres,” it said.

“Small theatres are integral to London’s rich theatre ecology – they provide support and space for artists to innovate, to hone their craft, to ‘scratch’ and develop work and to explore artistic choice.

“Often, they have more freedom to programme less risk adverse work for London’s diverse audiences; be that diversity of age, ethnicity or gender.”

Recommendations suggested in the report include TfL providing opportunities for small theatres to advertise at tube, rail and tram stations close to their venue and central government encouraging landlords to make more performance and rehearsal space available.

Photo courtesy of Magnus D, with thanks.

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