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Leicester's Haymarket to Close     

Leicester's Haymarket Theatre is to close in two months because of debts of £450,000.

Board members took the decision at an emergency meeting earlier this week. They have made an emergency bid to Arts Council England for extra funds so that the theatre can reopen next year.

About 75 of the 80-odd staff are expected to be made redundant but some will be kept on to continue the theatre's work with schools and in the community.

The Haymarket has been beset with problems recently. Leicestershire County Council withdrew its £100,000 funding earlier this year and the theatre also lost money when shows were cancelled because of a strike by members of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinema and Theatre Union (BECTU) which represents backstage staff.

The theatre, known for its diverse productions in a city which has a large ethnic population, also suffered because some shows attracted too few people.

Chief executive Mandy Stewart said it was a difficult but necessary decision: "Running the Haymarket is a very costly exercise. There is an imbalance between the funding we have and the cost it actually incurs to put on the range and quality we want."

But Willy Donahay from BECTU said: "My reaction is one of shock and disappointment echoed by my members who have been subsidising the Haymarket through low rates of pay for a number of years.

"This comes at a time when the regional arts board has given a commitment to significant extra funding. What we would like to see is why that deficit which was £120,000 last year has rocketed to £450,000."

Mr Donahay questioned the wisdom of putting on some of the shows which had been seen on the Haymarket stage and he wondered why the management had not been called to task.

"My members are surprised that senior management has not been asked to do the honourable thing in these circumstances."

A city council statement said: "We recognise that the Haymarket Theatre has a national reputation and is a real asset to the city. It is vital we continue to work closely with them over the next few months to help them overcome their present difficulties."

In a further statement Arts Council England said: "We recognise that the solution to the financial difficulties is likely to mean radical and painful change and that the theatre will need a one-off investment to meet the costs of change.

"We will work with Leicester Haymarket and endeavour to assist them through a process of business recovery. We recognise that the theatre is a vital cultural facility for the city, Leicestershire and the East Midlands."

The Haymarket was due to close in December 2004 as part of an expansion of the neighbouring shopping centre. The plan was for it to reopen in a new venue which will be the cornerstone of a cultural quarter that will also include a film and media centre and a live music venue.

The new £26m theatre in the St George's area of the city, designed by renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, is due to open in 2006. But there must now be serious doubts about the project. The arts authorities will be taking a careful look at the management structure of the theatre, if in fact the curtain does indeed go up at the costly new venue.
British Theatre Guide  
web site
Steve Orme
Thursday, May 22, 2003back



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