Hitchin's Market Theatre receives welcome recovery fund boost after 'difficult' year

Market Theatre opening up with staff

Market Theatre opening up with staff - Ollie Menham (front of house manager), Kirk Foster (artistic director), Jacqueline Roberts (actress and front of house staff), and Glyn Doggett (theatre manager). - Credit: Market Theatre

Following a challenging year in which it faced possible closure and redevelopment as flats, a Hitchin theatre has received a lifeline grant from the government's Culture Recovery Fund.

The Market Theatre was unsuccessful in the first round of funding last August, leading to the creation of a Crowdfunding campaign to keep the Sun Street venue afloat.

However, it is second time lucky for the Hitchin cultural hub with a grant to help the theatre reopen and prepare for the return of live audiences later this year.

The venue has been awarded a grant of just over £18,000 in the latest round of support from the £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced today (Good Friday).

The Market Theatre in Hitchin

The Market Theatre in Hitchin has received a grant as part of the second round of the government's Culture Recovery Fund. - Credit: The Market Theatre

The Market Theatre’s artistic director Kirk Foster said: “We are delighted to receive a grant this time round having been unsuccessful last year.

"This money along with over £10,000 raised by our amazing community through our Crowdfunding campaign and also several substantial sums kindly donated by local businesses and private individuals will ensure that we can continue with our plans for reopening and be here for the future.”

The Market Theatre, like all arts venues, was forced to close in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Although it enjoyed a brief period of opening in autumn last year, the venue has been largely closed since, most importantly over its lucrative Christmas season, which usually sees it make the bulk of its income through touring productions and festive shows.

The funding awarded today (April 2) is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed.

Theatre manager Glyn Doggett said: “We are delighted to receive some money through this latest round of funding.

"It’s certainly been a difficult time over the last year.”

The Market Theatre will be reopening on April 14, as they turn their courtyard into a bar and offer live music on a Friday and Saturday.

Kirk said: “While we aren’t allowed to start productions until May, we are keen to welcome people back to our venue to use our bar and enjoy some live entertainment.

"We know how desperate people are for a night out and we’ve already been encouraged by the number of table bookings we’ve taken since making the announcement."

The Market Theatre courtyard bar will open from Wednesday, April 14 and is taking bookings for tables of up to six.

The bar will be open 6.30pm until 11pm, Wednesday to Saturday every week.

Live music will be performed by a solo performer every Friday and Saturday.

Subject to government guidelines, the popular Hitchin venue will resume live theatre with their adult panto – Senmeafella – from May 20.

The farcical adult show was forced to close in December and so will resume its run for six more weeks until June 26.

For more details on the outdoor bar and to book a table, visit www.markettheatre.co.uk

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