A shared statement from DanceEast, Eastern Angles Theatre Company, First Light Festival, The New Wolsey Theatre, Primadonna Festival, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, and Suffolk Artlink – the local organisations impacted by Suffolk County’s proposal to cease investment in the cultural sector (including arts, theatres and museums) from April 2025:
The joint statement says: “Whilst we will need some time to consider the full impact of these proposals, our immediate concern is how any decision might impact the people of Suffolk. The proposed cut to these organisations will provide an extremely modest difference to the Council’s overall finances, representing a saving of just 0.057% of the Council’s 23/24 revenue budget. However, the ‘cost’ to our County will be so much more significant. Collectively, our organisations support 24,493 children and young people and 76,516 vulnerable people through our community engagement work.
“We also provide permanent employment for 154 staff, and project or contract employment for a further 499 staff. Suffolk-wide, the culture sector plays an important part in providing employment for local people, with almost 6,985 jobs being supported by the sector. Our organisations, both collectively and individually, call on Suffolk County Council to consider the merit of a small cost saving, compared to the huge impact this will have on communities across Suffolk who benefit from our work.”
With over four decades of council investment, the theatre is a pivotal force in nurturing creativity and well-being, particularly for young people and communities most in need.
Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre said that despite the theatre’s consistent efforts and the continued support from Arts Council England and Ipswich Borough Council, the proposed cuts could force the theatre into making difficult decisions about the extent of its ongoing services. The theatre’s Chief Executive/Artistic Director, Douglas Rintoul, expressed concern, stating, “These proposals come at a very difficult time for cultural organisations still recovering from the impact of the pandemic and grappling with the added strain of the cost-of-living crisis.”
Jake Smith Artistic Director / CEO of Eastern Angles said: “I know local authority budgets are under extreme pressure from the drastic underfunding from the Government, and council leaders across the UK are having to make tough decisions. However it is important to reframe investment in arts and culture as exactly that: an investment. It delivers not only an economic return but also contributes to the social health and wellbeing of our community.”
Artistic Director of The Theatre Royal, Owen Calvert-Lyons said: “Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds has played a vital role in West Suffolk for 200 years. The proposed cut from Suffolk County Council poses a very real threat. Local authority budgets are under extreme pressure, and we understand that councils are having to make difficult decisions, but ceasing to invest in arts and culture is short-term thinking. At Theatre Royal we deliver after-school drama clubs, teach literacy projects in schools, provide spaces for the elderly to stay warm over winter – these were all once the work of Local Authorities.
“Ultimately, this is about quality of life. Suffolk has always been a great place to live because of the work of organisations like ours. Without arts and culture, Suffolk will be a far poorer place to live. If you are a Suffolk-resident, I urge you to contact your local councillor to express your concern at these cuts.”
The theatres are urging their audiences to write to their county councillors challenging the decision. To find your councillor, visit Suffolk County Council’s website (https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors-and-elected-representatives/find-your-councillor).
• Picture an example of the arts in the community, Eastern Angles Youth Theatre perform at The Work Furnace Street Theatre Parade – 2023. (Pic supplied by Eastern Angles).