Last week BAC's local council, Tory-governed Wandsworth, gave notice that from April 1 it intends to cut BAC's annual grant from £100,000 to zero and simultaneously start charging a commercial rent for the Lavender Hill building of more than £270,000 per annum. If this was to go ahead, BAC could not survive and would have to close.Update: more bad news on theatre funding.
This would be a tragedy for the people of Wandsworth, whose cultural lives would be so much poorer. It would also be a tragedy for British theatre because it would inflict huge damage on the theatre ecology. The local children and companies watching and working in Wandsworth today should be working at the National and on international stages tomorrow. Without BAC that won't happen.
When will government, both local and national, wake up to the fact that giving money to the arts is not subsidy, but investment - investment which not only has a financial return, but which also brings much wider benefits and improvements to people's lives? The health of the country demands that we invest in the imagination as well as in hospitals.
On January 31 this year Chester Gateway closed its doors after 38 years as a professional producing theatre. At the end of this week (January 20), Leicester's Haymarket Theatre will follow.
The closures will leave Leicester without a professional theatre until 2008, and there is no alternative venue envisaged for Chester until 2010 at the earliest.