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Dream comes true for a National Theatre     

THE plan for a National Theatre for Scotland, a dream of dramatists, directors, poets and writers for decades, will be approved today with the announcement of millions of pounds of funding from the Scottish Executive.

It is understood that Andy Kerr, the finance minister, will award the theatre funds of more than £2m for its first year and £4m in its second year. It is also understood that the NTS is likely to be based in Glasgow, which is home to a number of key theatres.

Mr Kerr will make the announcement as part of an expected £600m spending spree, to be explained in more detail in a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

The NTS money will be welcomed by the arts community as major aid for culture north of the border, and a long overdue investment in one of Scotland's strongest art forms.

Funding for the National Theatre will bring to an end years of demands, and will also mark the beginning of another process.

The steering committee charged with setting up the theatre can now proceed and make a number of important appointments. A board will be appointed, and a chairman, and then the vital position of artistic director will need to be filled.

Saxton Bampfylde Hever, a leading "head-hunting" company, has already been called in to help find the right person for the job of chairman.

The announcement today will also raise the vexed question of where the NTS will be based, although sources suggest Glasgow is the overwhelming favourite.

The accepted model for the NTS is that of a "commissioning theatre", with no bricks-and-mortar home but with an administration based simply in an office.

From this office, the artistic director will commission writers, companies, actors, and other talents to provide official NTS productions, which will be performed in existing theatres across the country.

This plan will use the existing talents at such theatres as the Tron and Citizens' in Glasgow, the Lyceum and Traverse in Edinburgh, and the Dundee Repertory Theatre.

In January this year plans for the theatre looked to have been dealt a fatal blow when £1m set aside for the NTS was used to fund the existing theatre network instead.

However, the Scottish Executive and Frank McAveety, the culture minister, have judged that enough money is now being given to Scotland's existing theatres, and the NTS can be set up without damaging their futures.

Indeed, the plan and scope for the NTS was drawn up in large part by the Federation of Scottish Theatre, the group that represents theatrical bodies throughout the country.

Scottish Opera, the financially troubled national company, will also be hoping for new money from the executive in the near future.

Last night, Kate Dean, the leader of Aberdeen City Council, called for the National Theatre to be based in Aberdeen.

She said it was the ideal location and added: "Bringing the new National Theatre to Aberdeen would build on the far-reaching work already being done to ensure Aberdeen is recognised as a culturally vibrant city, while reinvigorating the arts scene and adding to the buzz around the city."
Glasgow Herald  
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Thursday, September 11, 2003back



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