Norwich Playhouse looks certain of an assured future after Norwich City Council has come to its aid. In an imaginative move the Council has provided a loan which is secured against the building to allow the Playhouse to invest its income in developing the already popular artistic and educational programme.
The move helps to secure the long term future of the Playhouse and protects the Council as the current value of the building far outweighs the loan. Councillor Brian Watkins, Executive member for Enterprise expressed his delight at the deal.
He said, “The new Administration has taken a thorough and business-like approach to securing the future of the Playhouse. I think that the outcome is most welcome and will enable this popular venue to develop successfully from now on. It also demonstrates out commitment to work with our partners to promote the arts across the city”.
The Playhouse opened in December 1995, in 1997 they ran into difficulties. But a new board, in early 1998, under the Chairmanship of David Hill, also Chairman of Jarrold & Sons, secured a loan of £300,000 – £150,000 guaranteed by the City Council and the remainder from local supportive individuals.
Since then, the Playhouse has been using the majority of its box office receipts to pay interest on the loan and despite operating with very little public subsidy, four years of successful trading has meant the Playhouse has been able to pay interest on the loan, though not the capital. Helping to ensure a bright future for the Playhouse which means they can invest and develop their programme even further, the City Council has agreed to provide a loan of £325,000 which is secured against the building – currently valued at £600,000.
The loan will be like a mortgage, with a rate of interest, but instead of the interest being payable it will be ‘rolled up’ and added to the loan year by year. David Hill, Chairman of the Playhouse Board said, “In the year when the City is bidding to become European Capital of Culture, the City Council has shown great imagination in investing in the Playhouse to help us move to the next phase of the theatre’s development”.
One of the features of the Playhouse’s success is that it has appealed and developed a younger audience. The practice of inviting visiting companies to perform both drama, dance, music and comedy has proved a successful formula, and has made full use of the 310 seater theatre and its excellent facilities.
The artistic future of the Playhouse also looks to be in safe hands. The present Trustees under the chairmanship of David Hill, is hoping to come to an arrangement whereby the Theatre Royal management will be responsible for the development of the venue. The City Council will also be party to this arrangement.