I wanted to update Echo readers about the Cheltenham Playhouse and the actions that are being taken to seek financial support for this important and valued community theatre.
The background is that the Playhouse's application for £50,000 from the COVID Culture Recovery Fund was turned down earlier this month. That came as a real blow – and a surprise frankly, given that other Cheltenham organisations were successful to the tune of over £2.4m in total.
I declare a personal interest, as someone who was lucky enough to get experience of the Arts through a Playhouse workshop as a teenager in the 1990s. I know what a difference it can make to the lives of young people.
Following the announcement I made contact with Oliver Dowden MP's advisors. The upshot was a one-on-one meeting with the Secretary of State, during which I set out my concerns. I had approached him specifically because the Culture Recovery Fund is part of a £1.57bn package of DCMS Arts support.
Following those talks, I was able to secure a telephone meeting with the relevant South-West representative of ACE, who make the individual decisions. Although robust, I think it's fair to describe it as a positive discussion.
The next step is to arrange a meeting between ACE and the Playhouse representatives. I have put them in touch and I'm pleased to report that meeting has been organised for 5 November to discuss the way forward.
We mustn't get our hopes up, but it is positive that ACE have agreed to my request to meet the Playhouse. We also shouldn't expect any immediate decision; I understand from ACE that it will take some weeks for our representations and any further application to work their way through the ACE bureaucracy.
I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, huge thanks to the Playhouse trustees for their enormously hard work behind the scenes - and for taking my calls at ungodly hours.