A £2.9million investment into a popular theatre will aim to make it more accessible and “open it up” for more communities across the county.
The Yvonne Arnaud theatre, Surrey’s only producing theatre, applied for funding through the county council’s Your Fund Surrey scheme to make the listed building more accessible, including accessible toilets and a new lift.
A cabinet meeting of Surrey County Council on Tuesday (June 27) approved the funding allocation for the Guildford theatre, which will be paid out in stages.
The theatre was built in the first place with funds raised by the community.
Denise Turner-Stewart (Conservative, Staines South and Ashford West), the county council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for communities and community safety, said the improvements would open up all areas of the theatre for much wider community benefit.
She said the “iconic” theatre brought in visitors from across Surrey, totalling 128,000 theatre-goers per year to performances, events and community activities.
The theatre’s chief executive referred to annual funding cuts from Guildford Borough Council as “demoralising” and “irresponsible” in January 2022 as the authority worked to bring its budget under control.
Your Fund Surrey is used to fund capital community projects, and has now awarded more than £10m since its launch in November 2020 to projects including Claygate Community Pool, Leatherhead and Dorking Gymnastics Club, and Normandy Community Shop and Café.
The council’s leader Cllr Tim Oliver (Conservative, Weybridge) said: “This will open up space for community use.
“It’s important for people to realise it might be a theatre in the evening, but it is an absolutely well-used, well-liked community space during the day.”
Joanna Read, theatre director and chief executive of the Yvonne Arnaud, said: “This funding will help make the theatre accessible, sustainable and fit for purpose, better able to serve Surrey for future generations.
“The arts play a critical role in supporting our health and wellbeing and building cohesive communities.
“It’s good to have the backing of our county council as we continue our work bringing excellent theatre and arts engagement to the people of Surrey.
“Our vision for the Arnaud maintains its theatre traditions while building on our creative heart; repurposing a 1960s building to deliver multi-faceted offerings for 21st century audiences.”