Hampstead theatre director quits after Arts Council 100% funding cut

The London venue known for nurturing Mike Leigh, Harold Pinter, Hanif Kureishi and Abi Morgan ‘can no longer continue solely as a new writing theatre’, says outgoing artistic director Roxana Silbert

Hampstead theatre, which has nurtured emerging playwrights including Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Hanif Kureishi over its 60-year history, is set to “change direction” after the Arts Council cut its funding to zero last month.

Roxana Silbert has quit as the north London theatre’s artistic director because of the financial constraints it is facing after Arts Council England’s decision not to renew its £766,455 annual grant.

Roxana Silbert
Roxana Silbert. Photograph: Kris Askey

Hampstead theatre was a number of London arts institutions that had their funding cut by 100% as the Arts Council sought to fulfil a government instruction to channel more public money outside the capital. They include the Donmar Warehouse, the Barbican Centre and the Gate theatre. English National Opera also had its funding withdrawn but was offered grants to fund a move away from London to the north of England.

Hampstead theatre said that in the light of the cut, it will “need to change direction and can no longer continue solely as a new writing theatre”. Silbert had decided to step down “as a consequence”. The theatre added: “It is tragic that a leading writers’ theatre, having launched so many careers over the years and created work that has been enjoyed across the UK, should be treated in so summary a manner.”

The theatre started life in 1959 as the Hampstead theatre club, operating in a north London hall before moving in 1962 to a small studio in Swiss Cottage, where it remained for 40 years. It developed and produced the work of new and emerging writers such as Michael Frayn, Brian Friel, Abi Morgan and Debbie Tucker Green as well as Pinter, Leigh and Kureishi.

Producing work by new writers carries more risk for theatres than established plays that are certain to draw audiences. As well its main stage, Hampstead theatre has a more intimate studio space, which its website says, “is totally committed to new writing. Its programme is an opportunity for Hampstead to continue to innovate and build on its exceptional foundations as a place where new talent blossoms.”

It declined to give more detail about its change of direction, only saying that Greg Ripley-Duggan, the theatre’s executive producer, would be responsible for the “transition to a new model”.

Silbert said her decision to quit had not been easy. “Due to financial constraints which are well documented, and after thorough reflection, it feels appropriate for me to resign … Hampstead will have to recalibrate and change in order to go forward and I wish it every success.”

Irene Dorner, chair of Hampstead theatre, said Silbert had been “an inspirational leader for Hampstead and has directed some truly wonderful productions on both our stages. As part of our new strategy, we trust that she will often be able to return to Hampstead as a visiting director.”

The theatre had been “devastated” by the cut to its grant, she added.


Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wednesday briefing: Inside Arts Council England’s devastating cuts
In today’s newsletter: As enraged arts workers protest, we explore what the new world might look like for our cultural institutions – and why even opera haters should care about the fate of English National Opera

Archie Bland

23, Nov, 2022 @6:57 AM

Article image
Big hitters dominate Arts Council capital funding awards

Some of Britain's most heavily subsidised arts institutions among 26 successful applicants for lottery money

Alex Needham

29, Mar, 2012 @6:00 PM

Article image
Thrilled, relieved, perplexed: three Arts Council funding verdicts
In our second set of case studies exploring the impact of Arts Council England’s new funding decisions, we hear from Balbir Singh Dance Company, Britten Sinfonia and Little Bulb

Chris Wiegand, Imogen Tilden and Harriet Sherwood

14, Nov, 2022 @10:52 AM

Article image
Arts Council cuts will hobble regional touring, National Theatre director warns
Rufus Norris says DCMS levelling-up scheme will have exact opposite effect to that intended

Dalya Alberge

19, Jun, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
Oldham Coliseum will go dark due to 100% Arts Council England funding cut
All events from late March cancelled at the theatre, which is in a priority location for the government’s Levelling Up fund

Chris Wiegand Stage editor

31, Jan, 2023 @5:04 PM

Article image
Arts Council releases report on state of English theatre
ACE has published a survey of the nation’s theatregoing and theatre-making, with proposals including investing in three regional arts hubs

Lyn Gardner

20, Oct, 2016 @9:37 AM

Article image
Arts Council funding: organisations head into the unknown amid cuts
In the first of a series of case studies exploring the impact of Arts Council England’s new funding decisions, we consider the view from the Watermill theatre, Welsh National Opera and Paines Plough

Arifa Akbar, Imogen Tilden and Chris Wiegand

10, Nov, 2022 @11:43 AM

Article image
Theatre companies must rethink their relationship with Arts Council England
Applications are in for the next round of the council’s funding for National Portfolio Organisations. Some have decided it’s better to opt out

Lyn Gardner

01, Feb, 2017 @1:32 PM

Article image
‘An acutely difficult time’: companies respond to Arts Council funding decisions
In our third set of case studies exploring the impact of Arts Council England’s new funding round, we hear from Eclipse theatre in Leeds, Oldham Coliseum and Bloodaxe Books

Harriet Sherwood, Chris Wiegand and Lucy Knight

16, Nov, 2022 @12:52 PM

Article image
Arts council funding: the winners and losers

Small regional organisations have done best, while one in four of the losers is London-based

Maev Kennedy

30, Mar, 2011 @8:16 PM