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Struggling Guildford Venues Win ‘Lifesaver’ Grants From Arts Council

Published on: 6 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 11 Jul, 2020

By Martin Giles

Four major Guildford venues are to benefit from the Arts Council England’s £64m Covid-19 emergency response fund, as well as unnamed individuals.

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and the Guildford Shakespeare Company will each receive £35,000, Ochre Print Studio £31,180 and The Boileroom £25,000. Out of 20 other Guildford applications 11 unnamed individuals and organisations got grants ranging from £1,900 to £3,000 but nine were unsuccessful.


In March, the Arts Council announced a major grant scheme aimed at alleviating the “immediate pressures” faced by artists, arts organisations, museums, and libraries over the summer.

A total of 13,606 individuals and organisations from across England applied. It has now released a dataset showing which 10,000 candidates were successful and the BBC has been given permission to share the data with its news partners.

The size of the grants ranges from £125 to £40,000.

  • £50m was given to 2,182 organisations around England, and £16m was given to individuals;
  • £13.1m of funding was made to Black and minority ethnic individuals and Black and minority ethnic-led organisations; and
  • £8.5m of funding has been made to deaf or disabled individuals and disabled-led organisations.

These grants are not part of the government’s £1.57 billion package to support the arts across the UK.

The Yvonne Arnaud celebrated its 55th anniversary in June. The charity’s main source of income comes from ticket sales. Guildford Borough Council gives a grant and loyal supporters donate but survival of the theatre is difficult without the safety net of future ticket sales.

Joanna Read

Joanna Read, director of the theatre, said: “I’m delighted with this emergency funding. It’s a lifeline that will help the theatre, and an endorsement of our important role providing theatre to audiences across the south.”

Julian Bird, chair of the theatre’s trustees, added: “The theatre industry has some tough times ahead, so we thank the Arts Council for supporting the Yvonne Arnaud, and for showing confidence in our plans for the future”.

Matt Pinches, a co-founder of the Guildford Shakespeare Company, said: “We were overjoyed when we learnt that GSC were the fortunate recipients of a grant. This represents a crucial lifeline to ensure our survival in the unknown months ahead. “This has ensured the charity can continue to operate, while we explore how we’ll evolve to safeguard our future.

GSC co-founders Matt Pinches and Sarah Gobran

“Despite having to postpone our 15th summer season, we have created three live online performances (with a fourth being planned), 14 weeks of ongoing free content, new well-being and creative writing courses, and the continued delivery of existing education programmes.

“The arts, now more than ever, are and will forever be a force for hope in our communities, but the future for our industry is far from certain.

“Without a coherent strategy and financial rescue plan, the arts, which employs 300,000 people and generates £5 for every £1 invested, is on the brink of collapse.

“There is a lot of work still to do, but this support from ACE, together with our local authority, the benevolence of our sponsors and the simple messages of goodwill from our audience members, drives everyone at GSC to not give up and to #keepcreating.”

Boileroom Letter

Lydia Stockbridge, venue manager at The Boileroom, said: “We were relieved to hear we’d been successful. We’re still uncertain at the time of writing when we will safely be allowed and able to re-open, and with no income coming in during Covid-19, this was urgently needed to keep the venue afloat, and pay staff.

“We will be using the grant it for a mixture of things, paying artist deposits, the cost of leasing PA and lighting equipment, urgent bills and overheads to keep the venue financially stable during this time, and topping up staff wages on furlough scheme.”

She said the new government package would be vital for “all grassroots music venues, theatres and arts and heritage centres”.

Ms Stockbridge added: “Without this financial aid, 90 per cent of grassroots music venues were set to close. The situation has been dire for many of our fellow venue operators.

“Because of the funding from Arts Council England and our Crowdfunder, we are able to weather the storm whilst we await clarification from the government and plan our route to re-opening safely.

A spokesperson for the Ochre Print Studio said: “We were delighted to hear the news. We pride ourselves on being the largest open-access fine art printmaking studio in the south-east of England, with a membership of more than 130 artists and printmakers who, under normal circumstances, would be able to use our facilities.

Visiting tutor Steve Edwards (centre) demonstrated his etched lino technique during a course at Ochre Print Studio before lockdown.

“We offer a regular programme of workshops, courses and masterclasses in printmaking processes and techniques for all levels of ability with dedicated volunteers in our studio at Surrey Choices’ Lockwood Activity Centre on Slyfield Industrial Estate in Guildford.

“As a result of lockdown we have been forced to close the studio, cancel all courses and exhibitions and refund all course fees; while still having to meet our usual financial commitments and overheads.

“The grant has helped sustain us and will enable us to support the process of gradually reopening the studio in a safe and secure way in the near future. We are very grateful to Arts Council England for supporting us through these difficult times.”

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