Vital £28,000 lifeline for Merlin Theatre in Frome
The Merlin Theatre in Frome is celebrating the start of 2013 with a vital £28,000 grant from the Arts Council.
The project funding over three years will support the theatre's programme and audience development work.
Theatre director Claudia Pepler said she was thrilled with the news and said that it could not have come at a better time.
"We have had to restructure the organisation following severe cuts. This grant is absolutely essential to support our programme as we have no core support. It will enable to us to present a full varied programme; building our audiences, attracting more people to the theatre and the town, which will in turn impact on local businesses and other people and organisations working within the arts," she said.
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The Arts Council praised the theatre's programme with its mix of professional and non-professional performances and the work carried out with young people and community groups.
Ms Pepler added: "They are very impressed with how we have managed to grow audiences in the current economic climate. However, we will need to continue our fundraising as this grant is for a specific use and we still have bills to pay."
The theatre has faced tough times in the past two years. Last April the theatre lost a potential grant of £68,000 from the Arts Council. This was on top of the disappearance of local authority funding from both Mendip District and Somerset County Councils amounting to £34,000 which resulted in job losses.
The Merlin was originally built as a community theatre and arts provider for Frome people as well as a drama space for Frome Community College. It is renowned for its education and outreach work for children and young people and encourages local schools as well as the award winning Frome Drama Club and other amateur theatre groups to put on high quality productions with support from its professional staff.
As a result of the cuts, a fund raising committee was created to organise and coordinate events, many people organised sponsored events, people volunteered their time and the theatre itself organised fundraising performances.
Commenting on the project funding, acting chairwoman of the trustees, Hilary Gilmore, said "This is a huge endorsement of our programme from the Arts Council. The theatre has flourished under the direction of Claudia and this, along with the trustees and volunteers good work has been recognised by this grant."
The theatre will receive just over £28,000 over the next three years. Ms Pepler said this will enable the Merlin to undertake a sustained period of audience development activity creating opportunities for dialogue with their audiences developing the future programme with them, not for them, with the intention of extending the range of performances they experience. The grant will also support visiting companies and artists ensuring a broad programme of exciting work.