New grant is vital lifeline for Guildford's locked-down Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford has won a one-off grant of £35,000 from Arts Council England to help with core costs during the current period of closure and uncertainty.

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 12:40 pm
Joanna Read, director and chief executive, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Joanna Read, director and chief executive, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

The grant comes from the Arts Council England emergency response fund of £160 million, which has been made available for organisations and individuals not in receipt of regular Arts Council support.

Joanna Read, director and chief executive, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, said: “I’m delighted that the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has received this emergency funding. It’s a lifeline that will help the theatre and an endorsement of our important role providing theatre to audiences across the south.

“The theatre industry has some tough times ahead so we thank the Arts Council for supporting the Yvonne Arnaud and for showing confidence in our plans for the future.”

Celebrating its 55th anniversary in June, the Yvonne Arnaud is a charity whose main source of income comes from ticket sales.

“Guildford Borough Council kindly make an annual grant, and the theatre is fortunate to have the support of loyal donors, but without the safety net of future ticket sales, we are working hard to ensure the theatre’s survival.”

The team is urging people to buy panto tickets now. This year’s pantomime is Robin Hood featuring Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Peter Gordon and Jamie Brook from Friday, December 4 2020 – Sunday, January 3 2021.

“Please don’t wait until the last minute to buy your tickets. Book now to provide an invaluable cash flow. Or make a much-appreciated donation via the website at yvonne-arnaud/donate.”

In the meantime, the venue – despite the shutdown – is celebrating its big anniversary.

“We can’t be in theatre to celebrate at the moment so we are asking anyone who has enjoyed a show, worked on a production or has a personal connection to the theatre to share their stories with us.

“We’re also hoping that there might be some unseen photographs hiding in drawers or albums that can help us picture the inside of the building in the 1960s and 70s. If they are in colour, then even better.

“Built in 1965, thanks to public subscription, and designed by local architect John Brownrigg, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has produced innumerable shows featuring a raft of stars such as Vanessa Redgrave, whose footprint can still be seen in the concrete café floor, as well as Ingrid Bergman, Michael Gambon, Christopher Reeve, David Tennan and our trustees Dame Penelope Keith and Dame Judi Dench, among many others.”

Joanna became director and chief executive in 2019. Her vision for the future theatre takes it back to the past, in some ways, with a return to producing and touring, beginning with Tim Firth’s Sheila’s Island, originally scheduled for May 2020, to coincide with the anniversary but now postponed until spring 2021. She is also hoping to bring exciting new companies to the town and to restore the theatre building, dusting it off and rediscovering aa stylish 1965 architectural gem.

“If you, or someone you know, has a connection to the theatre or a photograph we may not have seen, please let us know by emailing [email protected] This theatrical institution deserves to celebrate its anniversary in style and to continue to entertain audiences for many years to come.”

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