Conservative Party opinion: ‘Theatre saved by government funds’, writes Peterborough MP Paul Bristow

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow, talks Westminster life, in his latest column

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 9th April 2022, 6:47 pm
MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow at the New Theatre, Broadway with theatre director Richie Ross and Selladoor CEO David Hutchinson (image: David Lowndes)
MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow at the New Theatre, Broadway with theatre director Richie Ross and Selladoor CEO David Hutchinson (image: David Lowndes)

As Peterborough Telegraph readers know, I’m not a bashful person. I like to get out there and say what I think. Biting my tongue isn’t my style.

I’m not a bashful MP, either. I see part of my role as promoting Peterborough as a city and promoting all the great people, businesses and organisations that we have on our doorstep.

When it comes to the Government, I make our case loudly and forcefully. I’m proud of the funding for Peterborough that this delivers. We’ve received tens of millions, both in support during the pandemic and for regeneration and the new university.

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Yet there is one topic on which I had to stay silent. It was painful, but important.

The Key Theatre was a huge part of my life growing up. I went many times as a child and take my own children there now.

When its closure was announced in December, I was devastated. I was also straight on the phone to councillors, Selladoor and many others about what we could do.

A plan quickly came together. Indeed, the Telegraph’s headline in January was: “Saved! Key Theatre to be run by operators of Peterborough New Theatre”.

A five-year lease had been agreed with Selladoor, which gave them permission to take on the facilities and staff. It provided a legal framework to keep the Key Theatre running. And I said… nothing.

Obviously, I was pleased. But I knew it wasn’t going to happen without an injection of funding. Although the agreement was a big and necessary step, it wasn’t sufficient.So I bit my tongue in public and kept going.

Peterborough had already got a big slice of the Government’s £1.5 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The New Theatre alone received over a million. On the other hand, I couldn’t think of a better example of recovery funding than this.

After many hours talking with everyone involved, I finally heard what we needed – the six digits that would secure the Key Theatre for the future – funding of £399,309.

As icing on the cake, there was additional funding for Peterborough City Council and Peterborough Cathedral. It represented another £1 million in total.

So my silence is over! I’m so pleased and excited that I’ll stop people in the street to tell them.

It’s huge news that Government is backing us. I was also delighted that the Secretary of State talked about Peterborough specifically, saying: “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.”

I’ll admit that her comments may have had something to do with me being in a good position to ask, but I couldn’t have put it better myself.

None of us could sit back and let the Key Theatre close its doors. We need our theatres as part of our city and part of our offer for new investment and jobs.

Peterborough’s best days lie ahead. As Nadine herself put it: “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.”