The General Picture
Like everywhere else, theatre in the North East was badly affected by funding cuts during 2012.
Some companies lost their Arts Council funding altogether: Northumberland Touring Company, for example, by dint of massive and occasionally innovative fund-raising, did manage to keep going, albeit on a reduced scale. Many had reduced ACE subsidy which meant, in the case of the Customs House in South Shields for instance, that there was money for community work and visual arts but not for productions, although the venue got around that shortage to an extent by engaging in co-productions with a number of partners and by making its major in-house production of the year (apart from the panto, of course!) a community show with amateur actors and professional creative team.
The year ended with the shock news that Newcastle City Council is considering closing ten of its eighteen libraries and cutting its culture budget in its entirety. At the moment these are just proposals for consultation and there has been a great outcry but the outlook is gloomy.
This follows the closure during the year of Darlington Arts Centre. It was first announced in 2010 that both the Arts Centre and the Civic Theatre were to close and a pressure group was set up in the town to try to save both. A reprieve was announced in 2011 and there have been continual rumours about companies interested in buying the Civic and it remains open but the Arts Centre closed in July.
At the end of December, as the venue’s main house show The Borrowers closed, Northern Stage’s chief executive left to take up a new position as deputy artistic director at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Whyman also received the OBE in the New Year’s Honours List, which just about qualifies for inclusion in this review because it was announced on 31st December.
In that list Gillian Quinn, founder of the Gillian Quinn School of Theatre in North Shields, received the MBE and the British Empire Medal went to Hazel Rayson, founder of Tyneside's Hazel Rayson Theatre Dance School.