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Newbury arts venues share in £300m recovery fund

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The Watermill picture Philip Tull (46075446)
The Watermill picture Philip Tull (46075446)

THE Corn Exchange is among more than 2,700 recipients to beTHE Corn Exchange is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the second round of awards from the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund and has received a grant of £120,000 to help the organisation recover and reopen.

More than £300m has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in the latest round of support announced last week by the Culture Secretary.

This grant will assist the Corn Exchange with restarting its activity in accordance with the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown. The programme will begin later this month with the previously announced activities for young people and families in the Learning Centre. From the end of May the Corn Exchange is planning to return with live events presented both at the Corn Exchange and across the town, with a festival of outdoor performances and activities which will run throughout the summer. Full details will be shared in May.

Following its closure last March, the Corn Exchange swiftly developed a programme of digital activity to keep people entertained and connected during lockdown. It reopened in September with a range of classes and workshops, some online and some in person, along with a programme of films, broadcast screenings and live performances, all delivered in a Covid-secure manner. In December, the Corn Exchange also presented its socially distanced pantomime, Aladdin, and a reimagined Lantern Trail along the banks of the canal. While social distancing requirements significantly reduced the capacity of these events, the Corn Exchange has always felt it was vital to begin performances and activities in order to create joyful artistic experiences for its community.

Corn Exchange director Katy Griffiths said: ‘We are very pleased to receive this news and this funding will support some of our activities over the coming months.

“The theatre industry still faces a critical time while social distancing requirements restrict us from bringing full audiences together and the ongoing support we have received from our local community has been vital in helping us through this period.

“As we begin to reopen we are looking forward to welcoming audiences back and being able to share creative experiences again."

The Watermill’s artistic and chief executive Paul Hart said of the news that the Bagnor theatre had received £197,646: “We are extremely grateful to DCMS and Arts Council England for awarding The Watermill Theatre a grant in the second round of Culture Recovery Fund which is announced today.

“It offers renewed optimism as we work towards reopening the theatre after a hugely difficult year. We are confident that thanks to this funding and with the continued support of our loyal audiences we will bounce back to produce bold and imaginative theatre, and we look forward to welcoming audiences to our unique theatre once again. Buoyed by this investment, our commitment to celebrate theatre, inspire creativity and connect communities is stronger than ever.”

More than £800m in grants and loans have already been awarded to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. This second round of awards will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations in the months ahead.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘Our record breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced. Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors – helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead."

The funding is from £400m held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. It has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

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