Quay Theatre in Sudbury receives vital £120,000 lifeline from Government's Culture Recovery Fund
Sudbury’s beleaguered theatre –forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic – has been thrown a lifeline as part of a government-funded cultural grant scheme announced this week.
In March, The Quay Theatre’s management feared for the venue’s survival after having to close. Since then, its board of trustees has met every week to work out a way to save it and have made a total of 21 applications for grant funding.
And this week, Paul Press, chairman of the board of trustees, received the news that the theatre had gained a £121,713 grant from the Culture Recovery Fund, plus a £2,000 grant from the Alfred Williams Charitable Trust.
He said: “It’s been a fantastic team effort and we are chuffed to pieces. We are extremely pleased.
“I was up at 3am on the morning of the announcement checking emails. Finally, at about 9.30am, we got the good news that our application had been successful. We didn’t get all we wanted – about £20,0000 less – but we are delighted and it means we can carry on and the money will last us until April, after which we will need to raise more.
“It was a big team effort but we didn’t want to lose this theatre without a fight. We also have to thank Babergh District Council and Sudbury Town Council, which supported us through some very dark days.”
Mr Press said staff now face the challenge of calling to speak to acts booked to come to the theatre next year to find out if they want to perform to 35-strong audiences rather than 125 because of limits on seating arrangements, while work will also take place to ascertain if customers will want to attend.
He said: “The staff will return in early November, with performances starting from January.”
Sara Knight, chairman of the Sudbury Dramatic Society, said: “We are very glad we can now get back on stage and we are in the process of selecting what we might be able to put on in March and May.
“We are happy and delighted but the funding will only last until April, so we are doing all we can to help,” she added.
Also set to benefit from the first tranche of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is the Colne Railway, based in Castle Hedingham.
It has gained £20,000, which will be used to support the charity’s operations “during this difficult time” and allow the appointment of a partnership manager to develop future relations with stakeholders and other community bodies.
Paul Lemon, chairman of Colne Valley Railway Preservation Limited, said: “We are delighted to have received this grant at this time, which will help us with weathering this storm and be ready for normal operation once we are able to do so.”
The railway was able to reopen on a limited basis in July after social distancing measures were put into place, including one-way routes, diesel train only operation and an enhanced cleaning regime.
Around 15 volunteers – drawn from the railway’s membership of more than 400 people – run the railway each day.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge welcomed the £257 million government fund aimed at saving 1,385 theatres, arts venues, museums and cultural organisations across England, and what it means to Sudbury’s theatre.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted that The Quay Theatre has been awarded such a significant amount of funding. I very much enjoyed taking my family to the panto at the Quay last year, and seeing the theatre having to close its doors has been a real blow for the whole of Sudbury.
“I hope this funding will be a big help for a brilliant local venue and underlines that, as a government, we are aware of the very negative impact of coronavirus on the viability of so many arts venues.”