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Local Theatres

Oral Answers to Questions — The Arts – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th June 1988.

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Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss , North East Cambridgeshire 12:00 am, 13th June 1988

To ask the Minister for the Arts to what extent his policy on private funding of the arts will aid local theatres.

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

One hundred and six theatres have gained awards under the business sponsorship incentive scheme, while 18 have won awards under my arts marketing scheme. Theatres which are funded by the arts councils or by regional arts associations will be entitled to apply for incentive funding under the Arts Council's scheme.

Photo of Malcolm Moss Malcolm Moss , North East Cambridgeshire

I thank my right hon. Friend for his helpful reply and draw his attention to a local theatre in my constituency, the Angles theatre in Wisbech—to which I cordially invite him and which I hope he can attend— which is one of only two Georgian theatres still used as a theatre, the other being at Richmond in Yorkshire. Can my right hon. Friend give any guidance as to possible funding, from either public or private funds, to carry out renovation and restoration of such theatres, which are of historical and architectural importance?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I have heard of the Angles centre at Wisbech. I know of my hon. Friend's association with it and the work that he does to support it. It is largely an amateur theatre. When professional groups go there, there is, I understand, funding from the Eastern regional arts association, which I welcome. The theatre's architectural quality is a matter more for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Is the Minister aware that a number of theatres are under threat, largely because they occupy important and valuable sites and are suitable objects of interest to developers? Does the Minister understand that he has some responsibility to preserve these buildings for future generations, who may be interested in the theatre as it has been and will be, and should be?

Photo of Mr Richard Luce Mr Richard Luce , Shoreham

I recognise the importance of the theatres, which have grown in number considerably in the past 20 or 30 years. There has been an average of one new theatre every year for the past 30 years and I recognise that many of them are very fine. However, it is for the managers of the theatres, the arts councils, where they are involved in funding, and the local authorities to play their part. Local authorities have an important role to play in the refurbishment of existing theatres.