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Million pounds of joy for Coventry's Belgrade

Bosses at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre are celebrating landing a whopping £999,999 grant from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

And they are joined in toasting the fund by the Albany Theatre, which has been awarded £250,000, Warwick Arts Centre which gets £483,000, Fargo Village which receives £150,000 and Compton Verney Art Gallery, south Warwickshire, which nets £980,000. There were also awards for some of Coventry's smaller arts and culture venues.

The award came as a huge relief for the Belgrade which, like all the country’s theatres, has had to live with uncertainty during the pandemic.

It will be particularly welcome since the Belgrade will be hoping to play a central part in next year’s City of Culture events.

In a joint statement, the theatre’s executive director Joanna Reid and artistic director Hamish Glen said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the full £999,999 we applied for. This money will enable us to start enacting the plans we’ve been developing to help us recover from this crisis.

“Over the coming months we will be running a series of test events to keep audiences coming back into the building for socially-distanced live performances, exhibitions, screenings and taking part in community activities.

“The money will also enable us to improve both our outdoor facilities and digital infrastructure, meaning we can respond more flexibly as the situation changes.

“Crucially, the work we are able to do now will also help us to build resilience…as we approach Coventry’s City of Culture.”

The £1.75 billion Cultural Recovery Fund has awarded grants of up to £1m to theatres, music venues, museums and heritage sites around the country, which struggled when they had to close their doors because of the covid crisis.

Another Coventry beneficiary was the Albany Theatre, which received £250,000. Delighted bosses there say the money will safeguard the theatre’s future.

Chair of the Trustees David Meredith said, "This money will help secure a sustainable future. Unfortunately, it did not come as quickly as we had hoped, meaning that regrettably we have had to make some members of our team redundant. This was not done lightly and we know that many other organisations and individuals have not received this crucial help and we have every sympathy for them. "We are very conscious that the Albany will be critically important as a provider of opportunities in particular for children and young people and as part of the ecology of the local arts scene. We will not let people down."

The theatre had been poised to cancel its recently announced mini autumn season and re-development plans, but the £250,000 grant means that events can go ahead as planned.

The recovery fund has given £483,000 to Warwick Arts Centre, which is due to re-open next year after a major three-year modernisation programme.

Director Doreen Foster said, " As we continue to prepare for Coventry's year as UK city of culture, it's wonderful to be able to talk about what we are going to do rather than what we cannot do."

A 'testbed' season will enable audiences to sample the Arts Centre's programme ahead of summer 2021's grand re-opening, with new art gallery, cinema screens and restaurant. The funding enables it to employ local freelance artists, purchase essential equipment and ensure that staff are ready to welcome audiences back again.

Also among the local recipients of recovery fund grants are Coventry's arts and creative hub Fargo Village, which receives £150,000 to develop outdoor spaces to host more live events and boost its ability to stage digital events and food festivals, and My Runway Group, a creative multi-platform youth empowerment organisation which has been awarded £60,708 to help continue its delivery of online initiatives.

Warwickshire's Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park receives £980,000 towards the costs of staging an exhibition of local young people's work, reintroducing talks and tours over the winter months and employing an artist to 're-envision' play areas. And there's help too in the shape of a £15,800 grant to safeguard the future of the highly regarded Coventry Music Museum, which like the Albany Theatre faced a very uncertain future.

Panto dropped from Belgrade line-up – elsewhere on our news pages.

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