Arts Council England Pledges Financial Support to Promote Future of Contemporary British Musical

News   Arts Council England Pledges Financial Support to Promote Future of Contemporary British Musical
Arts Council England, the funding body that distributes government funds to arts organizations, will invest in the infrastructure and grassroots of musical theatre.

A grant of £188,860 has been awarded to Perfect Pitch Musicals, an organization committed to developing contemporary British musicals by working with writers to develop and showcase their work.

Perfect Pitch Musicals began its life as a one-off showcase event, organized by Andy Barnes, at a fringe theatre, the Upstairs at the Gatehouse in London's High Gate, in 2006. He subsequently received an Arts Council grant of £45,000 in 2007, to research the creation of a network to support new British musical theatre. According to a press statement issued by the Arts Council, "With our most recent award, we have invested in the long term aims of the organization and have, ultimately, made a commitment to the development of new musical theatre work in the UK."

The organization now manages a professional network that works with and develops writers and their work and provides performance showcases. In a press statement, Barnes commented that when he set up, "I was struggling to find something contemporary, new and relevant as well as something developed enough to put on stage. When we put on the showcase, I was hoping to find a few other people that might want to help me develop one or two of those shows. Luckily, a number of venues and producers that I had invited were interested in moving a couple of them forward and so I began a series of collaborations. In 2008, with the support of more than 15 partners around the UK including venues, training establishments, agents and producers, Perfect Pitch has, by necessity, expanded into a network for developing new musicals and annually showcasing them in the West End." Last November, these were staged at Trafalgar Studios 2.

According to press materials issued by the Arts Council, musical theatre is one of the most popular art forms and contributes significantly to the U.K. economy in terms of employment, tourism and tax revenues, but very little support from the industry is reinvested to develop the grassroots of contemporary British musicals. This can be seen in the current crop of West End musicals, which is reliant on revivals, imports, jukebox musicals and already established and celebrity names.

The Arts Council's grant seeks to allow changes to take place that will ultimately change this. In a statement, Moira Sinclair, executive director of Arts Council England, London, commented, "Traditionally musical theatre is considered to be a commercially sustainable art form which doesn't require public subsidy. However, there is a definite need for investment in the developmental infrastructure, which will help support the next generation of musical theatre practitioners in this country. We don't expect results over night, but our investment is helping create conditions where emerging talent can thrive." The Arts Council also supports other musical theatre initiatives. Practitioners may apply for research and development, workshop and initial presentation costs for new musical theatre work through its open access grant scheme (Grant for the Arts). In the last two years, over £165,049 has been granted to musical theatre projects in London alone.

It has also invested in Musical Theatre Matters, an organization that is developing a network of producers and programmers of musical theatre work; as well as the Theatre Royal, Stratford East; the Young Vic; and Lyric Hammersmith, all of whom are programming new musical work.

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