Stephen Joseph Theatre receives lifeline grant from Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre has been awarded £247,705 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary has announced today. 

The Stephen Joseph Theatre is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced today as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England. Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks. 

The SJT – Alan Ayckbourn’s home theatre where he has premiered the majority of his plays since 1959 – has provided world-class accessible theatre for audiences on the Yorkshire coast since 1955. It’s produced almost 700 plays, many of them new – developing new writers and writing was the primary aim of the company’s founder, Stephen Joseph, and it remains one of the theatre’s core aims. The theatre also has a busy cinema, and a very active OutReach department, which works with the community both inside and outside the building. 

The Stephen Joseph Theatre (©Tony Bartholomew /

Last year, nearly 89,000 people attended an event at the SJT; it’s estimated that the theatre contributes over £4.5m to the local economy.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery. 

“These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”

Caroline Routh, the Executive Director of the SJT, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to have been awarded this funding. It will allow us to invest in in-depth audience development work and to explore ways in which we can make our work available to more people, all with the aim of strengthening our longer-term financial viability. 

“We’ve already begun to re-open our theatre to the public, and audiences are returning, which is great news. Unfortunately, under current social distancing measures, we are operating at less than 30% of our capacity and that is only something we are currently able to sustain by investing a proportion of our reserves; clearly this is not possible for any period of time. This funding is very welcome news: now we have to get on with the hard work that is still needed to ensure that theatres across the country survive.”

Paul Robinson, the Artistic Director of the SJT, said: “This is brilliant news for us and for the whole area. Since we re-opened the doors of our cinema at the end of August, and of our theatre at the beginning of October, we’ve been truly heartened by the number of people attending our socially distanced films and shows. 

“The next step in our recovery is to return to non-socially distanced performances, which will allow us to begin to build again on the excellent work we’ve done over recent years and which was brought to an untimely halt by lockdown in the spring.”

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