Cash crisis may force Britain's oldest children's theatre to close

THE OLDEST and best-known children's theatre in Britain is on the brink of collapse.

The 50-year-old Unicorn Theatre for Children is in financial crisis and will close unless it can raise pounds 200,000 from a public appeal.

Ironically, news of the crisis breaks two days after the launch of a book, Creative Britain, by Secretary of State for Culture, Chris Smith, in which he states that education and access are two of the cornerstones of Britain's arts policy.

The Unicorn is famous for both its educational work and for encouraging thousands of children to go to the theatre for the first time.

It is one of only two children's theatres in Britain. The other is the Polka Theatre, in south London.

Critically acclaimed, and attracting 50,000 children over the last year, the plight of the Unicorn has nothing to do with its record as a children's theatre.

Based in the Arts Theatre Building in the West End of London, it is dependent on rental from other productions in the evening to supplement its own income. While the Unicorn's daytime shows have done well, the evening productions, which it also programmes, have fared badly over the last year, losing an extra pounds 50,000.

The Unicorn has long wanted to have a purpose-built theatre of its own and is preparing a Lottery application. But at present it has a deficit of pounds 340,000. The theatre receives a grant of pounds 320,000 from the London Arts Board.

Performers who featured at the Unicorn early in their careers include Sylvester McCoy, Maureen Lipman, Amanda Barrie and Jenny Seagrove. Unicorn writers have included Shirley Hughes and Adrian Mitchell.

Tony Graham, the artistic director, said yesterday the theatre would have to close if the pounds 200,000 was not raised.

He added that he had plans for it to become a unique cultural centre for children, showcasing international work, doing research into children's theatre and continuing with its successful story-telling festival of this year, as well as maintaining its reputation for children's shows.

He said: "The closure of the Unicorn would be a disastrous loss for London's children. It would seem to be deeply ironic when we are repeatedly told that our national cultural priorities hinge on children, education and access.

"Over two and a half million children have visited the Unicorn since we began; many well-known actors made their first appearance here; the Unicorn occupies a very special place in people's hearts. Everyone just finds it inconceivable that we should go down."

Those wishing to contribute to the Save The Unicorn fund should telephone 0171-836 3334.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory