‘Desperate times’ as Hitchin’s Market Theatre fights for survival

PUBLISHED: 17:59 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:53 12 October 2020

The Market Theatre in Hitchin has launched a JustGiving survival appeal after missing out on a grant through the Culture Recovery Fund. Picture: The Market Theatre

The Market Theatre in Hitchin has launched a JustGiving survival appeal after missing out on a grant through the Culture Recovery Fund. Picture: The Market Theatre

The Market Theatre

Your theatre needs you! Hitchin’s Market Theatre has launched a survival appeal after missing out on a government grant.

Inside The Market Theatre in Hitchin which has launched a survival appeal through JustGiving after missing out on a Culture Recovery Fund grant. Picture: The Market TheatreInside The Market Theatre in Hitchin which has launched a survival appeal through JustGiving after missing out on a Culture Recovery Fund grant. Picture: The Market Theatre

The Sun Street venue has been unsuccessful in getting a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund and is now fighting for its future.

Creatives at the cultural hub have today (Monday) launched an appeal for donations after not receiving any cash from the government’s £1.57 billion arts rescue package.

Theatre manager Glyn Doggett said: “These are desperate times for us as a small independent business.

“We were really banking on receiving a grant from the government and today’s news that we have not been successful has come as a massive blow.”

The government’s package was distributed by Arts Council England, and the Market Theatre team put together a bid to receive just under £60,000 – one of the lowest sums you could ask for – back in August.

Artistic director Kirk Foster, who started The Market Theatre back in 1996, said: “To say we are gutted is an understatement.

“We have never asked for external funding or support in the 24 years we have been here, so we really hoped this grant would be successful.

“The generic email from the Arts Council implied that we are ‘not culturally significant and/or contributing to providing cultural opportunity in England’, which really does feel like rubbing salt in the wounds.”

Fresh from the success of the theatre’s opening show of the season, Nell Gwyn, the news is a huge blow to the Hitchin venue.

Kirk continued: “We have made every effort to get ourselves up and running, despite the financial challenges, and since September we have reopened our kids drama clubs to reduced capacity and our theatre shows to only a fraction of the numbers we were allowed to before.

“The grant was planned to cover our losses and ensure that by this time next year we could still be here.”

Like many other venues across the country, The Market Theatre relies on its pantomime season to bring in the numbers over Christmas but things are looking bleak this year.

Glyn said: “The adult panto and children’s Christmas show are usually our biggest earners and what keeps us going throughout the year.

“We also usually tour to around 30 schools across Herts, Beds and Bucks with the Christmas show.

“This year we are still running our adult panto and are producing a virtual pantomime for the schools as we won’t be able to perform to them in person.

“Uncertainty over how many audiences will attend this year and the reduced capacity means that without extra financial support none of our current plans will provide enough income to see us beyond February.”

The Market Theatre has launched a crowdfunding appeal via JustGiving to raise £60,000 that would help support the theatre and keep it going until October 2021.

Kirk Foster said: “We have based the figure on the shortfall that we estimate we will have between now and March next year.

“The hope is always that we can eliminate things like social distancing by March or April which would help, but of course our busiest period is Christmas time and without the influx of audiences this year we will struggle to get beyond March if we don’t get some financial help.”

To donate to The Market Theatre’s crowdfunding appeal, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/marketttheatrehitchin

You can buy tickets for the forthcoming thriller Too Late, and the Christmas Adult Panto at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/themarkettheatrehitchin

For more on the theatre, visit http://www.markettheatre.co.uk/


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