Council funding for Chichester attractions extended for another year

Councillors have approved a one-year extension to a grant funding agreement for Chichester Festival Theatre and the Pallant House Gallery.
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The agreement – £187,500 for the theatre and £130,000 for the gallery – was extended for a year in January 2021 in line with a similar extension from Arts Council England in recognition of the impact of the pandemic.

At a meeting on Tuesday (July 19) the agreement was extended again to March 2024.

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Janet Duncton (Con, Loxwood) described the ‘joy’ of having such a theatre in the city, pointing out that the youth theatre had 800 members and a waiting list for places.

Chichester Festival Theatre exterior. Pic S RobardsChichester Festival Theatre exterior. Pic S Robards
Chichester Festival Theatre exterior. Pic S Robards

Richard Plowman (Lib Dem, Chichester North) added that Chichester would be ‘a very poor place without these two organisations and the work that they do’.

But concerns were shared by Tim Johnson (Local Alliance, Selsey South) that some residents felt the council was spending too much money on the city and not enough on the rest of the district.

Clare Apel (Lib Dem, Chichester West) said she understood those concerns but called the grants ‘money well spent’.

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She added: “When you see what both organisations do for young people on the edge, homeless people, people with mental health problems, it is enormous.

SR2004272 Chichester Pallant House Gallery Pic Steve Robards SR2004272 Chichester Pallant House Gallery Pic Steve Robards
SR2004272 Chichester Pallant House Gallery Pic Steve Robards

“It is having such an amazing affect on all the individuals concerned – and it’s certainly far and wide, not just Chichester city.”

Simon Oakley (Con, North Mundham & Tangmere) was not sure the grants represented good value for money.

And he called on the council to ‘make close inspection’ of the theatre’s annual accounts, specifically the pay for senior staff.

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Mr Oakley added: “Though both of these organisations undertake a number of community activities, I think we need to be very clear as to what those activities’ measurable benefits – not only in the short but also in the long term – actually are.”

A joint social and economic impact assessment of the venues, along with the Novium Museum, had been planned for 2020/21 but fell foul of Covid.

A report to the meeting said that, even this year, the validity of the results from such a study would be heavily affected by the pandemic, as customer levels were still significantly below pre-Covid figures.

The work will be left until 2023/24 to allow for a fuller recovery.