Lights. Camera. Action. The curtains that used to rise in front of full audiences and enthusiastic actors taking the stage at the Cheltenham Playhouse are now met with smaller crowds and an underwhelming presence of excited cheering and clapping. Now, the theatre industry as a whole is facing an uncertain future of survival during the pandemic.
From amateur theatre to professional productions, the Playhouse in Cheltenham has brought the town together through performance and a sense of community. After being met with a rejection for funding of £50,000, supporters of the Playhouse and businesses in Gloucestershire have turned to other means to ensure the magic of theatre stays strong in Cheltenham.
Kieran Mortell, Actor and Trustee at the Playhouse, Cheltenham, said: “I’ve been with the Playhouse since I was a child when I performed there, then I taught at the theatre school and recently I’ve joined the board of directors. With the whole COVID situation, a lot of theatres have had to be closed for the whole time. The Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund was introduced to enable theatres to stay alive… but we were unsuccessful and didn’t receive anything.”
Despite the rejection, the Playhouse has received continued support, including from Alex Chalk, MP, who has been working closely with the Playhouse. Chalk has addressed the disparity of funding between other arts establishments and the Cheltenham Playhouse on his Facebook page, and is working with the theatre in an attempt to find alternative ways to fund them.
An update on the *Cheltenham Playhouse* and the actions that are being taken to seek financial support for this…Posted by Alex Chalk on Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Kieran said: “Alex chatted with the board and we now have a meeting with Arts Council England, which he’s continuing to work with us on. I don’t think they’re going to be making a U-turn on the funding decision but there could be other options for us to secure other funding moving forward.”
In the meantime, there’s still huge amounts of support and money being raised by businesses around the Cotswolds, offering a percentage of their takings to go towards the survival of Cheltenham Playhouse.
A couple of names of supporters that have helped towards the fundraising of the Playhouse are: James Fear, who set up a GoFundMe page and Matt Nolan and Jay Adler, owners of the Outdoor Inn, Cheltenham, who have given 25p of every purchase in October to the theatre.
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Funding sucks eh! So, for the rest of October, to help our friends at Cheltenham Playhouse reach their 100k Go-Fund-Me, kindly set up by a member of this fine community. We are pledging 25p of every drink bought to them! So, raise a glass to our FAVOURITE venue and you’ll be helping them too! We are a community and we need to keep them going! M&J #welovethem #artsareviable #community
Alongside these, there have been many attempts at fundraising, including direct donations and well as percentages from a tattoo parlour, restaurants, bars and art commissions being donated to the cause, leaving hope for the future of the Playhouse and the revival of the community spirit through theatre in Cheltenham.