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Newbury's Watermill theatre launches appeal to counter financial risk

West Berkshire theatre can only operate at 37% capacity

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

West Berkshire's Watermill theatre launches appeal to counter financial risk

The Watermill picture Philip Tull

Amid a UK arts and entertainment industry severely impacted by the effects of national measures introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19, like so many other theatres around the country since March, The Watermill has faced a real challenge to stay afloat.  Unfortunately the Bagnor theatre didn’t qualify for the lifeline Government Culture Recovery Funding grants announced for many venues this week, including Newbury’s Corn Exchange.

However, the Watermill has been given a fighting chance of getting back on its feet thanks to the incredible generosity of the theatre’s supporters and the combined efforts of its staff and volunteers.

After two shows staged in the riverside garden, the theatre’s auditorium re-opened on 22 September with a socially distanced one-man show, Bloodshot, performed by award-winning composer and actor Simon Slater. Bloodshot, which ends its run at the weekend is the first of three productions planned for the theatre’s autumn season, featuring smaller cast sizes, reduced capacity inside the auditorium and socially distanced seating to enable audiences to get back to watching the best of live theatre.

However, with safety a priority and a variety of new measures introduced to aid social distancing, the audience capacity for each performance has been significantly reduced and this of course has a huge impact on ticket income.

As a result, The Watermill is calling for donations to its new FULL HOUSE appeal. The registered arts charity is asking for support to help overcome the effects of reducing its seating capacity during this unprecedented period.

Artistic and executive director Paul Hart said: “We are delighted to bring live theatre to The Watermill’s stage once again and have loved welcoming audiences back. Undoubtedly the audience experience will look and feel quite different at the theatre this season as we have implemented lots of new measures to help with social distancing and to keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, operating in this way means we are only able to sell approximately 37% of the seats in our auditorium - we usually aim to reach in excess of 80% capacity to break-even.

“From the feedback we have received already, the uplifting effect that live theatre has on audiences is clear and we are determined to continue creating ambitious and exciting theatre for people of all ages to enjoy, but operating at such a reduced capacity involves a high level of financial risk.

“Sadly, The Watermill did not qualify for funding from the Government's £1.5 billion arts industry bailout so now more than ever your support towards our FULL HOUSE appeal will make a dramatic difference.”

To find out how you can help click here.

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