Culture recovery grant is a winter lifeline for coastal theatre

Loraine Metcalfe plays the Sorceress in the panto Rapunzel, which will be streamed online, and also

Loraine Metcalfe plays the Sorceress in the panto Rapunzel, which will be streamed online, and also shown at Sheringham Little Threatre and St George’s in Great Yarmouth. Picture: SLT/Richard Batson - Credit: Archant

Sheringham Little Theatre director DEBBIE THOMPSON reports on how the venue’s theatre is looking much brighter than it was a few short months ago.

The team at Sheringham Little Theatre celebrating outside the theatre after receiving a lifeline £76

The team at Sheringham Little Theatre celebrating outside the theatre after receiving a lifeline £76,000 culture recovery grant. Picture: Sheringham Little Theatre - Credit: Archant

After months of “lockdown limbo” life has suddenly gone into overdrive at Sheringham Little Theatre thanks to two bits of brilliant news.

We are still all smiles from winning a £76,000 grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund which has thrown us a lifeline as a difficult winter looms.

And it followed hard on the heels on the news that we have found a way to produce a panto, both live on stage and a virtual version beamed into Norfolk schools.

The past six months have been the toughest I have known – for the theatre and the world in general.

Katie Thompson is one of four young people involved in a project called Rewriting Rural Racism at Sh

Katie Thompson is one of four young people involved in a project called Rewriting Rural Racism at Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: Supplied by SLT/Richard Batson - Credit: Archant


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Closure of the main auditorium, furloughing then having to lay off staff, were painful –and things have been challenging for the slimmed-down team dealing with the ways and restrictions of the “new normal”.

Trying to keep the blacked out theatre alive and in people’s minds through social media was hard work, but the response to our posts showed it the amount of support there is out there for our venue. But we need more than sentiment and good wishes to keep us going (if those could be turned into pounds we would be rolling in it!).

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Earlier in the lockdown we were lucky enough to get £45,000 worth of grants and financial help from the government, North Norfolk District Council and Arts Council, which helped as we lost our 60th anniversary summer season.

But, without wanting to sound like a scene from Oliver!, we needed more! Not to be greedy, just to survive into a long winter with fewer shows, and smaller audiences due to Covid social distancing restrictions cutting our seating from 160 to 40.

The Prince (Charlie Randall) woos Rapunzel as Fantazmo watches on in Rapunzel The Lockdown Panto. P

The Prince (Charlie Randall) woos Rapunzel as Fantazmo watches on in Rapunzel The Lockdown Panto. Picture: Richard Batson/SLT - Credit: Archant

MORE: ‘The show will go on’: North Norfolk arts venues celebrate £421,000 financial lifeline

A lot of time and effort went into filling out the bid for the Culture Recovery Fund application.

The money is part of the 1.57 billion Government package to support the arts, via the Arts Council. In the application we had to project what income losses we face for the next six months and what unavoidable overhead expenditure we faced.

We also had to budget for what activity we planned to do in that period.

Rapunzel The Lockdown Panto stars Rapunzel (Emma Riches) with her Prince (Charlie Randall) and his

Rapunzel The Lockdown Panto stars Rapunzel (Emma Riches) with her Prince (Charlie Randall) and his agent (Harry Williams). Picture: Richard Batson/SLT - Credit: Archant

The process was, as you would expect, very detailed and we will be required in April to account for the way the grant is spent.

There was a nail-biting wait to find out if we were successful – made worse when our decision day was delayed.

But we got it! I am not ashamed to admit that after some nervous sleepless days, there were tears, of relief and joy at the news.

Now we can crack on with our planned programme of events, without the “so long as we get the grant” small print.

The team at Sheringham Little Theatre celebrating inside the theatre after receiving a lifeline £76,

The team at Sheringham Little Theatre celebrating inside the theatre after receiving a lifeline £76,000 culture recovery grant. Picture: Sheringham Little Theatre - Credit: Archant

They include some exciting shows by our young actors, including a tremendous project highlighting racism in rural Norfolk – which we will say more about in future columns.

And, although the grant has eased our anxiety for now, we still need the support of our loyal followers for the longer term – either by becoming theatre Friends, making donations or attending our shows.

One of the mainstay winter shows is, of course, the panto. For a while we feared we would have to follow the lead of other theatres and scrap ours. But panto is about happy endings, and we were determined to find one.

Sharing the show with our coastal “cousin” theatre, St George’s in Great Yarmouth means we can spread the costs.

Ashton Owen is one of four young people involved in a project called Rewriting Rural Racism at Sheri

Ashton Owen is one of four young people involved in a project called Rewriting Rural Racism at Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: Supplied by SLT/Richard Batson - Credit: Archant

And when I heard the Norfolk Music Hub was looking for a panto to relay online to primary schools, I was quick to offer us as a solution, and they were delighted to team up with us. So far 9,000 children are signed up to see it!

The live show, involving a small but talented cast, for socially-distanced audiences, will start at St George’s (December 15-19 including the live video link schools show on the 16th), before heading to Sheringham for December 22,23 and 24 – providing a perfect pre-festive treat.

But, with the unwrapping of our Culture Recovery grant, it feels like our Christmas has come early.

What’s On?

October events at the Little Theatre include:

21-24 Blink – drama - a darkly funny love story with a modern day on-line relationship twist.

27 Vivarum (15) – film – a house-hunting young couple on a viewing find themselves trapped in a maze-like nightmare

29 Frankenstein – National Theatre encore screening featuring Benedict Cumberbatch See details of the Little Theatre’s upcoming shows at www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com

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