Queen’s Theatre faces cuts fears

THE future of the Queen’s Theatre could be in the balance over fears it could see its funding slashed as part of government spending cuts.

Staff at the theatre in Billet Lane, Hornchurch, are bracing themselves for the coalition government to announce details of its comprehensive spending review next month, when a decision is expected to be made about funding.

Bob Carlton, Queen’s artistic director, said: “We are always on knife edge, but with this government it is hard for us because we are very anxious about our future.

“We are a local theatre, which serves the community, and we fear that the cuts could really threaten us.”

As part of the spending review by the government, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has warned the Arts Council to reduce funding by as much as 30 per-cent, which would force the theatre to take a cut in funding.

Theatre staff also fear that if its funding was to be reduced it may be forced to increase ticket prices, cut down on education and outreach projects for schools and young people, and it may even have to reduce the number of its shows.

Mr Carlton believes it could see the return of the dark days of the 1980s when the theatre was on the brink of closing after its funding was cut by the Arts Council.

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He said: “We only survived in those days because of the help of Havering Council, but we don’t want things to go back again.

“We are a local theatre, so our shows should be as cheap as possible, so it is very important that we do not lose our money and see all the work that we have done over the years building up the theatre, to see it go down.”

The theatre is calling on Havering residents and theatre lovers to write to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, and to Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, telling them why Queen’s is such an important resource and ask them to ensure that the theatre is protected from any spending cuts.

Mr Carlton said: “We passionately believe that Queen’s is crucial to a good quality of life – it’s a hugely popular theatre, serving local people and is running very efficiently.

“We urge residents to write to Jeremy Hunt, asking for help in ensuring the Queen’s is able to continue being a treasured resource in the heart of the community.”

Sample letters are available on the website at www.queens-theatre.co.uk.