London’s fringe and smaller theatres have long existed in a state of heroic precariousness, but as economic woes continue to bite, a new GLA report entitled ‘Centre Stage’ has outlined the problems facing London’s 105 most beloved smaller venues… and what can be done about them.
Six months in the making, the report found that almost half of small London theatres feel ‘insecure’ and one in five feel ‘very insecure’ about their financial future, with more than a third worried their venues are at risk of being sold or converted by developers as landlords take advantage of rising property values.
Worrying news, and with the theatregoing public’s wallets not getting any fatter – and London’s landlords not getting any less greedy – it’s crunch time for London’s smallest houses, with even powerhouses like Southwark’s musical-centric Union Theatre now fighting for survival.
The upside, though, is that ‘Centre Stage’ contains numerous suggestions on how to improve the lot of these small but perfectly formed venues, which have nurtured the talents of some of Britain’s finest and most successful actors and creatives.
Ideas included enlisting GLA support to help small theatres fundraise and market themselves more effectively, the creation of a better infrastructure for a successful fringe show to extend its life in a larger venue, for rehearsal space to be made available in City Hall, and for the Mayor to appoint a new ambassador for small theatres to bring the sector together and implement the suggestions.
Troubled times, though if BoJo pulls his finger out we could be on the verge of a major breakthrough for this most precarious, plucky and inspiring of industries.