'It means we can survive' - Theatres and museums react to vital funding

Debbie Thompson is the theatre director for St George's Theatre, Yarmouth Picture: Nick Butcher

Debbie Thompson is the theatre director for St George's Theatre, Yarmouth Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Arts and culture venues across Norfolk and Waveney say newly-announced government funding will stop them from closing and keep their doors open.

Thousands of organisations across the UK will receive cash from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) Culture Recovery Fund to help them survive and recover from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Norfolk and Waveney, 43 groups are set to benefit from the grants, to the tune of almost £5m. They include theatres, which have been among the most starved of trade over the last year.

Debbie Thompson, theatre director at Sheringham Little Theatre and St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth, said the money had secured their future.

“We are so delighted by the news,” she said. “It means we can survive, we have been so badly hit by the pandemic so this makes a huge difference and we are so grateful.

“A hugely stressful time but a huge relief for both theatres that we can plan for the future now.”

Sheringham Little Theatre theatre director Debbie Thompson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY.

Sheringham Little Theatre theatre director Debbie Thompson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY. - Credit: Archant

Mrs Thompson said the Yarmouth theatre only had enough money to get them through until the end of the summer. Sheringham has more in reserve, but would still be facing closure at the end of the year.

She ensures both theatres offer community-led projects, working closely with others to bring people back together.

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“We’ve had such a long time apart, it is important to come back together,” she said.

“Both theatres are proper community theatres and we need them now - it's something to celebrate, entertain and be together at.”

Museum of the Broads, Stalham.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Museum of the Broads, Stalham. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Museums have also benefited from the grants, including the Stalham-based Museum of the Broads.

Nicola Hems, curator at the museum, she said was "delighted" with their funding, as it would negate the stress of having to delay their opening to make the site safer for social distancing.

“We couldn’t open because of the crisis and can't open until later on, but the fund will enable us to reopen without having to worry about it,” she said.

“This week we got our volunteers back onto the site for maintenance work.

The Museum of the Broads with it's new exhibition looking at Broadland's High Street Through Time. P

Nicola Hems, curator at the Museum of the Broads.

“We had some money from North Norfolk District Council to make changes to entry and reception areas to make sure we could perform social distancing.

“It’s all a bit difficult to plan but this money means we can move forward and not worry about using reserves to keep going, which is great.”

She said they had no fears of closing as they took advantage of their reserves and furloughed their staff.

But Mrs Hems said the last year had just been about survival as they shelved plans to redevelop the site. Now they will look to come back stronger.

“We are the northern gateway to the Broads,” she said.

“Stalham doesn’t get a great deal of publicity or tourism. So it is lovely to be supported to bring the story of the Broads alive.

“It showed their faith in us, so I’m pleased.”

Hugh Harkett managing director of the North Norfolk Railway. Picture: HOWARD JOHNSTON

Hugh Harkett managing director of the North Norfolk Railway. Picture: HOWARD JOHNSTON - Credit: Archant

The North Norfolk Railway also benefitted from the grant and says this funding will help fill the gaps in income due to its closure.

It will go towards vital infrastructure work to improve the service which the team has not been able to complete due to the pandemic.

Hugh Harkett, managing director, said: “This is a very timely award to us, as we have not been operating for the past three months and only at one-third of its capacity in 2020.

The North Norfolk Railway. Photo: Ian Burt

The North Norfolk Railway line which runs from Sheringham to Holt. Photo: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

"The grant will help us to get ready for our services in 2021 which will be starting daily on April 12 and hopefully continuing to build to capacity by mid-summer.

“We are busy checking our infrastructure, our locomotives and carriages so people can come and enjoy the stunning North Norfolk vistas in the  Covid-safe environment of our compartment trains.

“We look forward to seeing our visitors again this year and we are grateful for the support of DCMS and the NLHF.”

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