Saved, for the moment: 24:7 Theatre Festival gets a reprieve

Susie Stubbs

Without its regular funding, it looked like it was all over for the Manchester theatre festival that celebrates new talent – until a few friends stepped in.

Theatre in Manchester has rarely looked so healthy. From the Royal Exchange to the soon-to-be-opened HOME, the city is awash with venues. And with companies such as Quarantine, and an offer that ranges from trad. Shakespeare to new work fusing basketball and hip hop, if theatre is your thing, Manchester is where it’s at. Don’t take our word for it: Guardian critic Lyn Gardner recently noted the city’s “changing theatre scene.” After too long in the theatrical wilderness, here was a place, she wrote, fast playing catch-up.

After ten years at the theatrical coalface, the festival had its regular funding pulled – for good

So it seemed ironic that after ten years at the theatrical coalface, the 24:7 Theatre Festival had its regular funding pulled – for good. This is a peripatetic festival that has, since 2004, nurtured new writing talent in the city. While its festivals were almost always a mixed bag, the fact that ticket prices were low and the plays plentiful gave the public the chance to take a punt – and playwrights the chance to get their work on stage, often for the first time.

But all is not lost; the 24:7 Theatre Festival has announced that it has crowdfunded enough money to run a “Big Weekender”, to be held at the university and Manchester Museum in July, with the Arts Council matching publicly-raised funds and support also coming from Manchester City Council. Help has come in other forms and from other sources, too, with actor Julie Hesmondhalgh and some thirty playwrights and theatre professionals helping shortlist and select the work that will appear during the Big Weekender. So, it seems, that the 24:7 Theatre Festival is safe again, for the moment. Let’s just hope that we see a return to a fully-funded and fully-scaled up festival in 2016.

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