We should all give theatres the support they deserve

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W e have said more than once recently that we fear the arts are a soft target for a painful pinch in these times of a seemingly never-ending tightening of belts.

So it is good to see that Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal has secured an important chunk of funding for its £4m refurbishment programme.

Not only that, but the £250,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation comes at the same time as Portsmouth City Council has stepped in to help with an early payment of £50,000, with another £60,000 pledged between now and June this year to counter a cash flow problem which left the theatre’s trust unable to make the repayment on a loan it took out to pay for design work.

Of course, that particular monetary difficulty shows the potentially parlous path that needs to be negotiated when organising the finances of a provincial theatre.

So the city council is right to effectively warn that there can be no blank cheque to safeguard against further difficulties.

But it does have a responsibility to aid the existence of this important public facility, and we are glad that, in praising the theatre’s contribution to the community, it has put its money where its mouth is.

The latest grants mean that the theatre trust now has in place the necessary funding for the planned refurbishments and that ambitious scheme of works can only enhance still further the role of the New Theatre Royal in promoting and enhancing the arts in this area.

Like its ‘big sister’ the Kings Theatre in Southsea, it has survived difficult years and emerged with its old glory restored and in good shape to face the challenging next chapter in its history.

Ultimately its success will be decided by that somewhat vulgar but nonetheless time-honoured indicator of entertainment success – namely the number of bums on seats.

The council and outside organisations have all given our theatres their support. Each of us should regularly do the same.