WEST Norfolk Council has been asked to rethink plans to phase out its funding for Westacre Theatre.

In an open letter to council leader Brian Long, Westacre’s Arts Foundation chairman, William Smith, has asked the council to clearly outline its plans regarding future investment in the theatre.

In the letter Mr Smith said: “Westacre Theatre has offered an incredibly good return on the borough council’s forcedly limited investment (last financial year £6,400 per annum).

“Despite almost 95 per cent of our revenue funding being self-generated we know that receiving the borough council’s tangible support (together with that of Norfolk County Council which is yet again managing to maintain its current level of support to us) has been instrumental in persuading outside agencies to invest in  the future of our organisation.

“To lose such a token of the council’s commitment to our work would be a blow, not just to us, but to every citizen of this borough that has benefited from the resulting inward investment in the past and might be able to do so in the future as our plans to complete the next phase of our development proceed.”

Over the last 25 years Westacre Theatre has operated out of a converted chapel which serves as a flexible studio space seating 80 and offering a year-round programme of in-house productions, visiting companies, concerts, workshops and events.

Mr Smith said: “In one form or another events at Westacre have been part of the cultural landscape of West Norfolk for over 25 years.

“We are proud to present a wide and varied programme of performing and creative arts events  in a rural corner of West Norfolk that has often been starved of such fare, compared with that available to the borough’s more urban areas.”

He added that there might be a misconception that Westacre Theatre primarily serves the Breckland area.

He said: “This perception is alarmingly misguided.”

Mr Smith explained that 75 per cent of Westacre’s patrons lived in West Norfolk, and the other 25 per cent bring much-needed tourist income into the area.

Councillor Elizabeth Nockolds, deputy leader and portfolio holder for Culture, said: “We have happily supported Westacre Theatre for several years, both with a grant and a bursary for a young person.

“It is a great theatre with some wonderful performances which take place throughout the year. It is very well supported.

“During 2012 the borough council gave the theatre a grant of £15,000 towards the new building.

“Unfortunately, the council’s budgets are decreasing so therefore we have to make some savings, and rather than stop supporting immediately we have reduced the funding in a gradual way.”

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