Four of the North East’s small touring theatre companies have joined forces to access funding more readily available to the big players in the arts.
By coming together in a venture called Twine they have qualified for assistance from Arts Council England’s Catalyst Arts fund, designed to encourage philanthropic giving at a time when public subsidy is dwindling from a stream to a trickle.
The companies are Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC), based in Alnwick, Theatre Sans Frontieres from Hexham, Theatre Hullabaloo from Darlington and Unfolding Theatre from Newcastle.
Also involved is The Empty Space, based in Newcastle, which supports the work of theatre companies across the region.
Natalie Querol, who co-founded The Empty Space in 2007, manages Twine.
At a launch event in Newcastle she said many people in the North East only get to see live theatre when a touring company visits their local venue.
“Twine has been created to ensure that those touring companies continue to flourish,” she said.
While two of the theatre companies – Theatre Sans Frontieres and Theatre Hullabaloo – receive regular Arts Council funding as National Portfolio organisations, the other two do not. Since it lost its regular funding two years ago, Northumberland Theatre Company’s fight to keep going has been well documented.
Founded 35 years ago, its work remains in demand across the country.
But in the current economic climate even National Portfolio organisations will see their public funding reduced as the Government tightens purse-strings.
Under the Catalyst Arts scheme, Twine can access a maximum of £64,000 over three years if its members can raise £165,000.
At the launch Natalie said £10,000 had already been pledged.
She said: “Twine’s structure and funding model is unique for touring theatres. We’re very keen to encourage more audiences and people from the business community to involve themselves more deeply in this region’s rich arts and cultural offer.
“We are all passionate about touring theatre and the benefits it can bring to its audiences.”
Among those who have already pledged funding is a businessman - not from the North East – who paid Theatre Sans Frontieres, which specialises in foreign language plays for young people, for a school performance.
Alison Maw, spokeswoman for the Hexham theatre company, said of Twine: “What it helps us to do is look at the idea of raising money from individuals.
“The Government has been putting a big emphasis on philanthropic giving and that’s not an area this company has looked at particularly in the past.
“We’ve got to diversify income streams and not be so dependent on the Arts Council or trusts and foundations.”