Liverpool's Royal Court Becomes Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation
Published on 19 July 2017
Arts Council England have announced that Liverpool's Royal Court will become a National Portfolio Organisation from April 2018.
This is a huge lift for the recently renovated Liverpool theatre, giving it the same national status as other venues in the city such as Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.
As an NPO at Band 1, Liverpool's Royal Court will receive annual revenue funding from the Arts Council of over £225,000 per year until 2022.
Liverpool's Royal Court has produced over 75 shows in the last ten years. The first in 2006 was the smash hit Brick Up The Mersey Tunnels which has now played to a staggering 150,000 people over the years. The theatre now produces an average of eight, mainly new productions each year, with each one running from between four to six weeks in the 1150 seat, art deco theatre.
Last year they welcomed their one millionth customer through the doors, rewarding him with a golden ticket which gave him dinner and drinks for every show for the rest of his life.
Liverpool's Royal Court is known to attract an audience that other theatres find hard to reach. With pre show dining, dessert at the interval and drinks available at your table in the cabaret-style stalls seating, 'The Royal Court Experience' is unique amongst theatres around the country. A mix of comedy and musicals featuring the best of Merseyside actors and backstage talent means that the audiences are loyal and large (over 130,000 each year). 95% of all of the money generated by the theatre is spent in Merseyside and the venue is fiercely proud of its reputation as The People's Theatre.
As well as the work that has been produced on stage, the building has been completely refurbished in the last five years with more than £8m of investment in the fabric of the building. The refurbishment works have taken place in three phases starting with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with the final section underway this year funded by the Arts Council's large Capital grant scheme in additional to continuing capital support from Liverpool City Council. The investment has seen the building completely transformed into a modern venue that audiences love spending time in.
A key element of the theatre's success is its engagement with local people through its community choir and youth theatre. Both are offered to local people at no charge and require no audition to access. The choir has over 100 members and the youth theatre provides weekly sessions for up to 80 young people aged 11-19 each week as well as the chance to perform on the main stage each year with their own production.
This recognition by the Arts Council is a great reward for all of the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes and will underpin the theatre's plans to continue to reach out to large audiences and participants across the city.
Kevin Fearon, the Executive Producer at the Court, has been the driving force behind the venue since the company took over in 2005: "This announcement a huge landmark for us. When we first got here in 2005 the building wasn't in great shape and, as much as people enjoyed coming here for gigs, they remembered their feet sticking to the floor and drinking warm cans of beer from the bar. We wanted to keep that amazing night out feeling but make the building a much nicer place for people to come. That first production of Brick Up showed that there was a whole new audience out there who wanted to come out for a great night out and we wanted to give them somewhere that they could really enjoy.
"We have been described as mouthy outsiders and noisy neighbours but this recognition by Arts Council England means that we will now be able to come to the table with other Liverpool venues when it comes to planning the future of culture in this city. We are looking forward to it!"
Gillian Miller, Chief Executive of Liverpool's Royal Court, has been responsible for raising the money for the renovation and has been key to this successful bid: "This announcement is transformational for the theatre and is an incredible achievement for everyone who has been part of the Royal Court's remarkable journey over the last ten years. It shows that the Arts Council believe that culture should be widely accessible and we are very grateful for their support. The status of NPO will allow us to broaden our community involvement, widen our participation programmes and help to make the theatre more sustainable and resilient. Basically it will give us a whole new lease of life and help to safeguard the theatre for future generations to enjoy.
Jane Beardsworth, Director North, Arts Council England said, "The redevelopment of the Royal Court in Liverpool over the last few years has brought another dimension to the theatre scene in Liverpool and has brought a new audience to theatre. We had previously supported it with a £2 million grant from our capital programme. Its application to join our national portfolio showed inventiveness and ambition and we're pleased to support it."