Chichester Festival Theatre to apply for cultural recovery funding

Cancellation of Chichester Festival Theatre’s spring season plunges the CFT into much more serious waters.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 6:00 am
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Tobias Key

Until now, the CFT has felt relatively protected by the strength of its reserves after years of success. But now this latest blow changes the game.

CFT artistic director Daniel Evans admits: “We are worried. We are concerned. We are very grateful to see the release of new cultural recovery funding. We will be applying to that.

“We haven’t had a penny so far (from the cultural recovery fund), and that has been some kind of badge of honour, but we are now at a point where our income is so low. Audiences are low and activity is low, and we can’t keep putting on things without people being able to come in their droves to see them.”

The CFT wasn’t eligible for the earlier rounds of recovery funding: “We had to prove that we would be bankrupt by March 31 without it, and at that point it didn’t feel like that. But they have now amended the criteria, and in terms of what we have gone through, we are now in a place where we can apply.

“You have to apply for a specific sum, and that will be the work of the senior management team throughout January to work that out. The amount of work that the application requires is very forensic.”

But the CFT is now at the point where it needs to apply: “We have now gone a whole year. Other people have received help, and we are very pleased for them, but now definitely we need to be applying too.

“The extension of the furlough scheme was just slipped into the ether, but we thought that something must be coming, and we are very grateful that it has been extended. We will be looking at furloughing most of the staff, but what is good is that they have amended the criteria so that we can take it part time.”

Another big consolation is the fact that the CFT enters yet another period of darkness on the back of the huge high of the youth theatre’s production of Pinocchio – a glowing memory, perhaps all the most glowing for the fact that it was cut short on Christmas Eve.

“I felt quite overwhelmed by it, if I am honest,” Daniel says. “There was something quite wonderful about watching this group of young people that have been through so many difficulties. We have all been through difficulties, but these are young people who are at a time in their lives when they are desperate to socialise and to be together, just as part of finding out who they are and what they are wanting in life. They had the debacle of exams. They have really been through it.

“And I found it just so remarkable that – within the guidelines – they were able to come together and to make friends and to come up with something as wonderful as Pinocchio was, to be able to see their pride it in and to see the audience reaction. I feel quite teary just thinking about it – and also the gratitude of the parents. And they all came together to produce something of such a high standard. It really was a gift – a gift to the audiences and to the organisation and to themselves. They have gone through so much, and against all the odds they achieved something so wonderful. They were a shining light.”

When the announcement came that Christmas Eve would be their last performance, it was “pretty emotional” for them: “But I was amazed how stoic they were.

“They were grateful that they had come this far. They were very happy with the reviews as they should be, and they were very proud. But they were very accepting. I think there was part of us that knew that at any moment we could be asked to stop. In the lead-up we could see the (Covid) figures rising and we were just so relieved to be able to get to the opening night.

“And in the end we were able to have half the run.”