200,000 lifeline for Northcott

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200,000 lifeline for Northcott

Posted: 19/01/2007 16:14:47

A 200,000 lifeline for the Northcott Theatre has been approved by Devon County Council's Cabinet, the Executive, meeting in Exeter today.

Sheila Hobden, the Council's Executive Member for Culture, proposed the 200,000 grant from the Council's reserves to save the theatre from permanent closure. She was backed by Council Leader Brian Greenslade and Executive colleagues.

The theatre badly needs financial help to fund essential works necessary to comply with health and safety and Disability Discrimination Act standards and increase capacity. Without these works being carried out it would have to close.

County Council Chief Executive Phil Norrey described the Northcott as "a key cultural provision" not only for Exeter, but for the whole county. He told the Executive that 53% of the Northcott's audience were Devon people from outside the city, 33% came from Exeter itself with the remaining 14% coming from outside the county.

The County Council has already provided 250,000 to support improvements to the theatre and the additional 200,000 will help pay for works including:

* Replacing all the existing seats.
* 25 to 30 additional seats.
* 6 new spaces for wheelchair users
* disabled access to the main entrance
* new disabled passenger lift
* relocation of the food servery
* new fire alarm and PA system

The theatre's original improvement programme, which included plans for 90 additional seating, had to be scaled back because of increased costs and a funding shortfall from other potential sources.

However, Exeter University has dedicated much effort into securing additional funding for a revised project and has sought the help of the County Council.

Cllr Hobden said: "I think we must as a County Council support this proposal to support the theatre. It is a very key element in the cultural life not only of Exeter, but it serves the wider county even more so. It is very much a countywide institution and the County Council has committed itself in its Strategic Plan to celebrating Devon's cultural life and activities.

"Our financial assistance to the Northcott demonstrates our commitment to supporting the growth of Exeter as a regional hub and home for cultural facilities of national standing."

Cllr Greenslade said: : "The Northcott Theatre is a vital part of the cultural life of Exeter and the wider county of Devon. It's an important attraction in the city and enjoyed by many. Devon County Council would not want to see it close and in fact we would like to see its capacity increase and access improved so that more people can enjoy its productions. Celebrating and supporting Devon's culture is a priority for the County Council and fortunately we do have the capacity to respond when help is needed."

Deputy Environment Director Ian Harrison said it would be possible to secure public transport at reasonable cost to improve services to and from the Northcott, and said the County Council would want to work with Exeter University and the theatre to achieve that goal.

The Theatre will close after the current pantomime season and will re-open in December 2007 following completion of the improvement work. This timing is crucial to the funding of the project as the Christmas season contributes significantly to the financial viability of the theatre. The long term business plan for the theatre is sound, showing a surplus on its operations of 45,000 in 2008/9, its first full year of trading after re-opening.

Permalink: http://www.thesite.co.uk/viewnewsstory.asp?newsid=861

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