The MP for Keswick has met with Theatre by the Lake directors in a bid to ensure the future of the theatre for ‘generations to come’.
With arts venues across the country facing crisis point following enforced closure due to COVID-19, Keswick’s MP, Trudy Harrison met with Executive Director, James Cobbold and Chair of Theatre by the Lake’s board of trustees Charles Carter, to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on the theatre and necessary measures to help sustain the popular venue and charity.
Following the virtually held meeting, the Government has this week announced a £1.57 billion support package to help protect cultural and heritage organisations, which has been welcomed by Trudy.
Since her election, Trudy has been a strong supporter of local arts venues, and has pledged to raise their concerns with Ministerial colleagues to ensure Theatre by the Lake and other performing arts venues across Copeland are able to get back on their feet as soon as possible.
She said: “Theatre and the arts are a pivotal part of our culture, heritage and inspiration, however, in our rural county it is geographically harder to attend live performances. The need to level up the county’s creative venues within the arts sector is absolutely crucial, particularly at a time when the industry has been so badly affected.
“Theatre by the Lake is an asset to Cumbria and has been an incredibly popular venue for arts and culture for the past 21 years.
“As one of Keswick’s largest employers which contributes significantly to the local visitor economy, I will be lobbying Government at the highest level to ensure this much loved venue is able to continue producing acclaimed performances for generations to come.”
Since the lockdown was announced, bosses at Theatre by the Lake have had to make a number of difficult decisions including the cancellation of the Christmas production of The Borrowers, managing and maintaining the theatre with a significantly smaller team as well as implementing staff redundancies.
Renowned actor, Dame Judi Dench has also pledged her support for Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake after the loss of the entire summer season due to COVID.
Executive Director James Cobbold and Artistic Director Liz Stevenson said: “It was great to meet with Trudy and explain the impact of the current situation on Theatre by the Lake and the theatre industry more broadly.
“Trudy is aware of just how much Theatre by the Lake offers to the local community – not only in terms of what’s presented across our stages, but also the work we do with local schools, young people, people living with dementia and their carers, our Elders and Young Companies, as well as acting as a creative and social hub for TBTL’s extensive volunteer network and Friends, and the local societies and community groups who use our venue.”
TBTL welcomes the government’s recent announcement of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector; this is great news, although too early to say what this means specifically for Theatre by the Lake.
Despite having to consider redundancies, during lockdown Theatre by the Lake has created an online play reading group, a community exhibition – due to open on the reopening of the building – an artist network to nurture and celebrate Cumbrian talent and a series of short plays about the region, available to view online and being read to digitally isolated members of the community on the phone.
The government is currently finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors that will be published shortly, working with the sectors and being guided by medical experts.
Oliver Dowden, Culture Secretary said: “Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast growing creative industries.
“I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”