Joy as two ‘vital’ theatres awarded share of £1.57bn culture recovery fund

The sell-out Beccles pantomime, Dick Whittington, at Beccles Public Hall in 2019. PHOTO: Alan Lyall

The sell-out Beccles pantomime, Dick Whittington, at Beccles Public Hall in 2019. PHOTO: Alan Lyall - Credit: Archant

Two popular venues in Beccles and Bungay have been awarded more than £180,000 in a bid to stay afloat.

Beccles Public Hall and the Fisher Theatre, in Bungay, were celebrating after being awarded the lifelines as part of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

The venues are two of almost 600 cultural and creative organisations across the country to receive a share of the funding in a bid to combat the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, and to ensure a sustainable future.

John Cushing, venue director at Beccles Public Hall, which received £80,104, said: “We re-opened in September for cinema and have now held our first live events, socially distanced and Covid-safe.

“These have been very popular but our capacity has been much reduced.”

The grant will allow the community-run venue to expand its programme of events and pay all of the artists and creatives involved.

Shaun Crowley, chief executive of Beccles Lido Limited (BLL) which owns the theatre, said: “The theatre and lido are at the heart of our community.

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“Throughout this pandemic, we have been committed to serving the community and providing the services we know are vital for our users’ health and wellbeing.

“We all need safe spaces to go, to interact, and to be entertained.

“This grant means the community can now look forward to some really exciting shows over the winter and through into spring 2021.”

The team at Bungay’s Fisher Theatre were also celebrating following the news.

Taking to Facebook, a spokesperson said: “Everyone is celebrating here at the Fisher. We have been awarded £103,519 from Arts Council England as part of the government’s culture recovery fund.

“This is a huge weight off our shoulders but the work never stops.

“We do it all for our community and we are now able to provide the best entertainment we can offer for the foreseeable future thanks to Arts Council England.

Prior to the funding boost, Beccles Public Hall had already started preparing a socially distanced family Christmas production called ‘Inside the Snowglobe’.

It came after the town’s annual pantomime had to be postponded due to the pandemic.

Producer Ryan Holt said: “It’s great the government has not forgotten the smaller community gems such as Beccles, as the venue is a key player in bringing income into the town’s local economy.

“I am excited to be part of the team, taking the venue forward through this challenging time with producing Covid-safe entertainment and events.”