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Grant given to town’s theatre

A £30,000 grant has been awarded to help to keep live entertainment thriving in Bognor Regis.

 

Arun District Council agreed to provide the funding to the Arun Arts charity for its work at the town’s Regis Centre.

 

The council’s cabinet approved the funding – to be provided in two annual grants of £15,000 – on Monday.

 

Arun’s leader, Cllr Gillian Brown, said: “The venue needs to have that long-term financial stability to go ahead.”

 

The backing was a tribute to the hard work of Hazel Latus, who chairs the Arun Arts charity, which runs the centre and its Alexandra Theatre, she said.

 

“She has turned it around,” said Cllr Brown. “She has got a huge number of community groups going there, 15 a week, with a programme of family events, the panto, youth theatre and some fantastic classical music concerts, which are really, really good.

 

“Over the past two years, everything (at the centre) has vastly improved. The number of performances has increased and the audiences have also increased.”

 

The Arun Arts charity shop has moved from the centre to premises on the opposite side of the Place St Maur to create a new studio, she said.

 

The visitor information point was also being moved in the opposite direction into the centre to generate extra footfall.

 

Arun Arts has managed and operated the centre for some 20 years.

 

It has built on its role as a community theatre to develop strong links with the University of Chichester to develop high quality entertainment with amateur and professional performers, such as Griff Rhys Jones, this Sunday.

 

A marketing post was established in October, 2015, with a previous grant from Arun, and a box office system was put in the following year.

 

Arun group head of economy Denise Vine told the cabinet the impact of the changes was shown in the growth of audiences and shows.

 

The 2011 figures of 35 shows and 22,924 tickets sold had soared to 95 productions and 45,139 tickets last year.

 

“These are impressive and improving figures that have doubled the 2011 audience numbers,” she said. “The theatre has an average capacity of 72 per cent and many shows are sold out.

 

“In 2017, 31 events were at 90 per cent capacity or above. Ticket sales on the new system are recorded at £547,310 sold for 2017 events. The theatre is now successfully using social media to promote its shows and 40 per cent of tickets are booked online.”

 

Looking forward, Arun Arts was developing links with Chichester Festival Theatre to see if they could work together to provide events for low income families, said Mrs Vine.

 

Talks had also been held with Arts Council England about developing touring drama shows. But the seafront building needed constant maintenance such as £70,000 for recent roof repairs and £40,000-plus spent on theatre equipment.

 

The district council’s longer term vision for the seafront site is to incorporate it in a winter gardens attraction as a major regeneration project in the town.

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