Peterborough City Council announced the impending closure of its loss-making Embankment venue in December, to help balance its books, before entering into negotiations with Selladoor Venues Peterborough, which runs the New Theatre in Broadway, to save it.
Those negotiations involved a bid to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - which today announced its final round of support for arts and culture organisations from the Culture Recovery Fund including £399,309 to Selladoor to help it secure the future of the Key Theatre.
City MP Paul Bristow, a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for DCMS Nadine Dorries, has been lobbying to get the grant approved.
He said: “The Key Theatre was a huge part of my life growing up. I went many times as a child and have taken my own children there. I was devastated when I learnt it might close.
“The deal between Selladoor and the City Council was crucial, but it depended on funding. It’s huge news that Government is backing us.
“I have spent many hours talking to everyone and making the case for the Key Theatre. I’m so pleased and excited that we got there.
“We have also learnt that the City Council and the Cathedral have also received funding today for Culture and Heritage in Peterborough. A lot of hard work has gone into this. This £1 million investment in our City shows Peterborough’s best days lie ahead.”
David Hutchinson, CEO of Selladoor Venues Peterborough, and Creative Director and Paul Jepson said: “We are delighted to have been awarded funding to secure the future of the Key Theatre. It is a much-loved venue sitting right at the heart of the communities it serves, demonstrated by local people generating support to save the venue earlier this year with a online petition signed by more than 10,000 people.
“Building on the strength and success of our work at the New Theatre Peterborough we aim to merge the two theatres under one efficient yet ambitious organisation with two very different personalities.
“In the short term we plan to restore the Key Theatre to a fully operational and thriving venue through consultation with our communities and local partners.
“Our longer term vision for the theatres comes under a joint agenda for change with a focus on collaboration, inclusion, talent development and sustainability, continuing to bring an excellent range of high quality live entertainment for the people of Peterborough.”
Nadine Dorries added: “During the pandemic, we couldn’t visit our theatres, cinemas and music venues. Organisations were hit hard, which is why the Government set up the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
“Peterborough has already benefited, but I’m delighted that we can now go further. Under the latest round of awards administered by the Arts Council, the Key Theatre in Peterborough will get the funding it needs to secure its future.
I know the Key Theatre has been enjoyed by generations of residents and families.
“The prospect of the New Theatre and the Key Theatre working together is such good news.
“This partnership between Peterborough City Council and Selladoor is the right way forward. Your MP has also been busy behind the scenes, ensuring it happened. Both Paul Bristow and Shailesh Vara tell me that Peterborough is on the up.
“The funding for the Key Theatre is another vote of confidence in that exciting future. I’m proud that this Government doesn’t just talk – it acts.”
The city council has itself been awarded £342,600 combined arts funding in the announcement made today, with Peterborough Cathedral getting £184,000 so it can continue hosting exhibitions, plays and festivals for visitors.
The Dean of Peterborough, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, said: “This grant is an enormous help to us at a vulnerable time financially. It’s wonderful to see worshippers, school groups and visitors returning to the Cathedral, and to be preparing for our summer programme in the hope of more buoyant levels of footfall.
“Yet all this is against a backdrop of two years of the pandemic, with the consequent loss of income, rising costs and very depleted reserves. The Culture Recovery Fund’s support will enable us to navigate these difficult times in better shape and we are so grateful for that.”
A spokesperson for the city council said: “We are delighted to have received this significant Culture Recovery Funding. This money will be vital to help with maintenance and running costs of Flag Fen and Peterborough Museum, which are important cultural assets for our city.
“We are fully committed to supporting the city’s cultural offering and despite financial challenges have much to look forward to. Peterborough has already been named as a priority place for support by Arts Council England and we are developing a Cultural Strategy to significantly boost the city’s cultural offering over the next decade.”