IT’S said that the darkest hour comes before dawn but at least there appear to be a few glimmers of hope for the arts amid the gloom of Covid-hit Britain.

This week sees the staging by Malvern Theatres Young Company of a double bill of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

Rhys Harris-Clarke will take the Festival Theatre stage in A Chip in the Sugar while Moa Myerson will star in Her Big Chance.
And there’s been an extra welcome bonus this week with the theatre’s announcement that it has been awarded £971,251 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. 

It was with his series of monologues, Talking Heads, originally filmed for BBC television in the 1980s, that Alan Bennett secured his reputation as a master of brilliant observation and comic timing.

In A Chip in the Sugar, Harris-Clarke takes the role of Graham Whittaker, a devoted son whose life begins to unravel when he discovers his ageing mother has taken up with an old flame.

And in Her Big Chance, Myerson plays Lesley, an aspiring actress, who after a series of unpromising extra roles on television programmes, finds what she thinks is her big break as the adventurous Travis in a new film.

The actors, who began their careers with Malvern Theatres Young Company, are directed by Nic Lloyd.

Meanwhile, Worcester MP Robin Walker has welcomed the news that four arts organisations in Worcester will receive £443,729 as part of a vital financial boost from the Government.  

The allocation is the biggest amount of funding distributed to date from the Culture Recovery Fund, bringing the total amount of grant funding awarded so far to more than £360 million.

Nationally, the funding will help save 1,385 theatres, galleries, performance groups, arts organisations and cultural venues facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and ensure they have a sustainable future.

Robin, who has recently visited the Museum of Royal Worcester, has been championing the cause of the arts and culture, and has raised the matter of increased support for arts and culture organisations in Worcester during the pandemic.

In Worcester, Dancefest will receive £50,000 while the Museum of Royal Worcester £107,275, Museums Worcestershire £96,454 and finally, the Worcester Cathedral Dean and Chapter will receive £190,000 under the museum category.

This funding will help allow performances to restart, venues to plan for reopening, and to help protect jobs and create opportunities for freelancers.

Robin said: “The announcement is incredibly important for the entire sector threatened by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am pleased that four organisations in Worcester will receive this significant grant from the Culture Recovery Fund.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The Government is here for culture and we have worked around the clock to get this funding to arts organisations.

“It will give many of our wonderful theatres, museums, art groups and cultural venues a helping hand to get them back on their feet.”

“This money will get to work right across the country to save these places and protect jobs. Hundreds of millions of pounds is on the way for cultural organisations of all sizes that still need our help.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages.

“Further funding will be announced later in the month and we are working hard to support creative organisations and individuals during these challenging times.”

Yes, it would seem that there is indeed a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel as far as the arts in Worcestershire are concerned.

John Phillpott




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