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COVID-19 crisis update – ACE Emergency Funding

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We learned today that Exeter Northcott Theatre’s application to Arts Council England for support from their COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund has been turned down.

As a registered charity, the Northcott is deeply grateful for the continued support of the University of Exeter, Exeter City Council and Arts Council England, which helps us keep the theatre’s doors open for our programme of live performance, and underpins our work with young people, our support for local artists and our engagement with diverse communities.


Why didn’t the Northcott receive Emergency funding from the Arts Council?
Exeter’s flagship theatre has been 90% reliant on earned income for its survival ever since Arts Council England removed the majority of the venue’s core funding in 2010, which is a much higher figure than most comparable-sized theatres in other UK cities.

The Northcott team has worked incredibly hard over the last decade to re-build a stable financial position. However, the legacy of that reliance on earned income – which in normal times is seen as a real strength – has left the Northcott particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis.

Although we’ve had to cancel over 200 performances meaning nearly £2m in lost revenues, it now seems that this relatively stable financial position means we haven’t been considered for support from this scheme, which was specifically set up to help organisations who wouldn’t otherwise survive until the end of September 2020.

It should be noted that this fund is not connected to Sunday’s announcement about the investment package pledged by the Government. We look forward to hearing more details about this investment and hope that they are announced soon.

Will the shows this autumn still go ahead?
The Northcott team had come up with a radical plan to get the venue open again at the earliest opportunity and to welcome small audiences back to live performances in a COVID-secure environment. However, this funding decision means that we won’t be able to proceed with these plans and our Autumn and Christmas seasons will now not go ahead. We’ll be contacting bookers over the coming weeks to arrange refunds.  Please bear with us – we will get in touch.

What does this mean for the Northcott’s staff?
Although the HMRC Furlough Scheme has helped us weather the early months of this crisis, in common with many UK theatres we’re now heading into a much more difficult period. Ensuring the survival of the charity through this challenging time means that we’re going to have to make some tough decisions about the shape and size of the organisation going forward. Whilst the recent announcement of Government investment in the Culture, Heritage and Arts sectors points to the possibility of support at some point in the future, without clarity about eligibility for this and a detailed timetable for the re-opening of theatres, we are left with no option but to start the first stage of consultations with staff about the probability of over 50% redundancies.

The management and Trustees of the theatre would like to express their admiration for, and solidarity with the theatre’s amazing staff team who have worked wonders to make the Northcott such a success and now find themselves caught up in this awful situation.

Is the theatre likely to close?
Although this funding decision is a real blow to culture in Exeter, rest assured that we’re doing everything we can to get the theatre’s doors open again, and although it may take longer than we had hoped, we’ll keep in touch as we navigate this unprecedented situation and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Northcott again soon.

 “Whilst this is undoubtedly a challenging moment for the Northcott, and our staff team, we’re already focusing on how the Northcott charity can build back from this crisis stronger than ever, with audiences and communities at the heart of what we do, and we’re confident that after this unexpected ‘interval’ we’ll be able to play a key role in shaping how culture and creativity lead Exeter’s recovery from COVID-19.”

– Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive

How can I help?
There are undoubtedly challenges ahead but, rest assured, we’ll be back to ensure that people in Exeter and the surrounding region can enjoy excellent live theatre.  If you love local theatre and would like to support us though this time, please donate here.


Download the full statement here.

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