It has started.

There was a kind of inevitability about the impending shock waves that would blast through the UK theatre scene after Arts Council England cut funding to so many top theatres and other cultural bodies.

Most of the media hype centred around the most high-profile loser, English National Opera. However, as this column has previously highlighted, several other major theatres lost all of their funding, while many others have received grants at much lower rates than in the past.

It is very sad to report that one of the victims, Hampstead Theatre, has just announced an almost instant response, with the departure of its Artistic Director, one of the UK’s leading new writing exponents, Roxana Silbert, described by the theatre’s chair as “an inspirational leader”. She is also a fine director who has brought many wonderful new works to stages across England and in Scotland.

Not only is the theatre losing one of its stars but the directors have announced that they will change their programming to a new, presumably much less ambitious and more defensive model.

Their press release dated 6 December sums up the position in the grimmest of terms.

Hampstead Theatre announced today that, in the light of the 100% cut in its Arts Council grant of £766,455, the theatre will need to change direction and can no longer continue solely as a new writing theatre. As a consequence, very sadly, Roxana Silbert has decided to step down as Artistic Director.

Hampstead has long been one of the UK’s foremost new writing theatres, with a 60-year track record of commissioning, developing and producing new plays. It is tragic that a leading writers’ theatre, having launched so many careers over the years and created work that has been enjoyed across the UK, should be treated in so summary a manner.

Over decades, this critic has enjoyed many fantastic productions at Hampstead, both in the old portacabin and more recently, in its state-of-the-art new building, which will now presumably be unable to operate to the fullest extent.

While there were inevitably some misses, the theatre has a proud history of unearthing and developing exciting new writing that stretches back 60 years and helped to launch the careers of some major players not just in theatre but also TV and film.

The theatre’s web site proves the point by proudly proclaiming its strong connections with the early careers of Mike Leigh, Michael Frayn, Brian Friel, Terry Johnson, Hanif Kureishi, Simon Block, Abi Morgan, Rona Munro, Tamsin Oglesby, Harold Pinter, Shelagh Stephenson, Debbie Tucker Green, Crispin Whittell, Roy Williams and Dennis Kelly.

As last week’s column suggested, the only way that Hampstead and so many of its peers that are also now struggling to survive can go forwards with any real hope is for individuals or companies to step in and fill the funding gap created by the government and Arts Council England.

Unless that is the case, then not only will London lose this valuable resource and almost inevitably others but many artists and support staff will have fewer opportunities to work.

This must lead uniquely talented individuals into financial difficulties with some choosing to leave the world of live theatre, maybe heading towards film and TV but, one fears, a large number giving it up to work in Amazon warehouses, offices or anywhere else that they can make enough money to keep body and soul together.

Hampstead will not be the last theatre forced to make tough decisions this winter. There are likely to be significant departures and redundancies at many other theatres, with the inevitable knock-on effects.