G7 companions’ journey to theatre backfires after minister’s gaffe

A go to to a fantastic open-air clifftop theatre in Cornwall by companions of the G7 leaders led to embarrassment for the UK authorities after the tradition secretary wrongly claimed it had acquired emergency funding through the Covid disaster.

Following the vastly profitable go to to the Minack theatre, perched dizzyingly above the Atlantic, the tradition secretary, Oliver Dowden, tweeted that he was delighted that Jill Biden and Carrie Johnson had visited the “beautiful” theatre.

However he added: “This distinctive venue was one in all greater than 650 theatres helped by means of Covid with help from the £2bn tradition restoration fund, guaranteeing that it might entertain guests for years to return.”

The theatre was shocked and identified that it had not acquired any such funding, tweeting: “Sorry @OliverDowden however this isn’t true. We didn’t profit from any CRF cash as we weren’t eligible to use. It turned out having a superb stage of money reserves meant we needed to fend for ourselves and utilise our personal reserves.”

Zoe Curnow, the Minack’s government director, mentioned on Sunday she was stunned to see Dowden’s tweet. “To attempt to rating a political level is unlucky, to be utterly sincere. Clearly the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] didn’t suppose to examine we had been on the record.

“We’re a charity however function in such a approach that we generate a surplus most years. We’re very proud we exist with out exterior funding and don’t go cap in hand to anybody.

“We weren’t on the record as a result of we didn’t qualify, and we didn’t qualify as a result of we run ourselves in such a approach that we had sufficient reserves to see us by means of.”

The theatre reopened after lockdown as quickly because it might final yr and ran a vastly profitable programme of about 180 exhibits, together with productions of Educating Rita and Stones in His Pockets, plus performances by the likes of the West Nation folks singer Seth Lakeman and the Fisherman’s Pals group.

Curnow mentioned: “It was so essential for us to reopen to assist our freelancers and our workers. We knew we’d have an viewers. We weren’t bitter that we didn’t get the funding. We weren’t eligible as a result of we had cash within the financial institution. We had been buying and selling at a decrease stage however in a financially sustainable approach.”

Nonetheless, the theatre did face challenges. Its capability has been decreased from 710 to 270 due to social distancing necessities. It misplaced £300,000 final yr and was compelled to make 15 workers redundant. “We reduce our material to get by means of winter,” Curnow mentioned. “Dropping workers in a distant space like that is soul destroying.”

Curnow is hoping good will come out of Dowden’s blunder. “I hope it would remind the federal government concerning the open-air theatre sector,” she mentioned.

She argues that the outside sector shouldn’t be “lumped in” with the indoor one and must be allowed to open totally sooner. “An out of doors theatre on a clifftop in Cornwall could be very totally different, once you’re serious about Covid danger.”

Reveals the Minack is staging this yr embody a model of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and The Magnificence Queen of Leenane.

The musical the G7 leaders’ companions noticed was Ocean World, which follows a humpback whale and her younger calf as they make the perilous journey from the southern seas to their feeding grounds within the north Atlantic. It’s being carried out by youngsters from faculties in west Cornwall.

A DCMS spokesperson mentioned: “Over 650 theatres have benefited from over £250m of help by means of our cultural restoration fund thus far. A tweet was briefly issued in error that the Minack was one in all them and we have now now spoken on to the theatre, who’ve accepted our apology. The Minack seemed beautiful yesterday as a part of the G7 summit and we congratulate all on the theatre concerned.

“The fund has made awards to greater than 700 tradition and heritage organisations throughout the south west value as much as £135m, with funding selections being taken by the Arts Council England, the British Movie Institute, Historic England and the Nationwide Lottery Heritage Fund.”

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