August was a pretty happy month for the Nottingham Playhouse as they were awarded almost 1million from Arts Council England from its Capital Investment Programme to make the theatre more energy efficient. Earlier in the year the Broadway Media Centre was successful with a £384,720 application to create a new creative business centre. This was fantastic news for Nottingham, particularly in light of a recent report Rebalancing our Cultural Capital that found Central government spending on arts and culture in the capital amounted to £69 per resident in 2012-13, compared with a derisory £4.60 per person elsewhere in England. These were troubling figures, particularly given that some 85% of the English population live outside of the Old Smoke.
Things got even better for the Playhouse when a partnership was negotiated with Nottingham County Council in support of the capital work for the theatre. The Grade II listed building was opened in 1963 and was widely regarded as one of the best theatre buildings of the era. However, it has become increasingly expensive to run which is why the Arts Council funding was so vital. However, to access this funding the Playhouse still need to raise a further £75,000. The money will help fund 156 solar panels, replace 50 year-old light fittings and stage lighting, new door lobbies and adding secondary glazing.
Theatre is the home of tragedy and so inevitably things had to go horribly wrong and mess up the happy ending. The villain in this instance is Nottinghamshire County Council who have proposed to cut the Playhouse’s funding by 100% which equates to a whopping £94,500. This will inevitably result in redundancies, the removal of discounted pricing or a decrease in the number of productions. So, we have the potential future of a gorgeously modernised eco-friendly building with not much going on inside. It’s so farcical someone should write a play about it…
Nottinghamshire County Council have argued that the Playhouse is located within the city, ignoring the fact that around 47% of visitors come from outside of the city as well as the outreach educational work the Playhouse does in surrounding communities. Not much of a present for your 50th birthday.
So what’s all this got to do with a graphic novel?
Dramatist Michael Eaton will be bringing Charlie Peace back to life for one of the chapters in Dawn of the Unread. The ‘king of the lags’ has been mythologised in popular culture and appropriated for various causes over the years. In the Buster comics he is transformed from a selfish thief into a survivalist, robbing from the rich. Although we had originally planned to have Charlie turn up at the Playhouse to see what all the fuss was about (regarding Michael’s play), perhaps we can adapt the narrative slightly to support the Playhouse. Charlie could be affronted to learn that his play won’t be shown anymore due to the funding cuts and so returns to see what’s going on. Befitting of our times he’s more image conscious and doesn’t want anything ruining the promotion and propagation of his celebrity.
If Michael doesn’t want to alter the narrative then there are other ways we can offer support such as embedding information/links/videos etc into the iPad and App that draws attention to the Playhouse’s fund raising. Dawn of the Unread is focussed on promoting literacy and awareness of local history. Although our priority is raising awareness of libraries and bookshops, the Playhouse is a vital cultural institution and works along similar principles: if there are less plays then there is less visibility for writers and ideas.
As this project develops it becomes ever more complex. But I like these kind of headaches. I’m always up for a good scrap if the cause is right.
Have your say on the proposed cuts by filling out the survey here.
- Nottinghamshire County Council budget cuts: Petition to save the Playhouse (cbjnewsreports.wordpress.com)
- Nottingham Playhouse Faces Funding Squeeze (cbjnewsreports.wordpress.com)
- Call for arts rebalancing as report shows London takes funding (thejournal.co.uk)
- The London bias of arts funding, again (theguardian.com)
- The digital aspects of Arts Council England’s strategic framework (chrisunitt.co.uk)
- Nottingham Playhouse pleads for Public Help (Nottinghampost.com)