Regional theatres cash hopes rise

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Sport and the theatre are two likely beneficiaries from an additional £105m awarded to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on top of the current spending of £101.5m a year.

Sport and the theatre are two likely beneficiaries from an additional £105m awarded to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on top of the current spending of £101.5m a year.

In 2002-03 there will be a further £50m and in 2003-04 an additional £70m. That represents an average annual rise of 4.3 per cent per year between 2000-01 and 2003-04 - about twice the previous settlement.

Details of precisely where the new money will go will not be announced until next week, but it is believed that as well as a sizeable sum for sporting initiatives, some £20m a year might be found to boost regional theatres.

Both Gerry Robinson, the Arts Council chairman, and the West End impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh have given public warnings about the crisis in regional theatre.

Sir Cameron has called for four centres of excellence in the regions to be funded by the Government.

Mr Robinson demanded an extra £100m for the arts, with £25m of that going to regional theatre.

Government sources say that there was sympathy for Mr Robinson's argument.

But despite the size of the overall increase, there were worries in the arts field last night. Victoria Todd, director of the National Campaign for the Arts, said: "It is essential that the arts receive adequate financial support from this settlement.

"In the capital alone, one in 10 Londoners are employed in the cultural industries and lack of appropriate investment would jeopardise the livelihoods of many."

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said last night: "The settlement is very good news for everyone who cares about sport, arts and culture.

"Such a significant spending boost will give sporting and cultural organisations the resources they need to nurture and reward talent and excellence, and places a new emphasis on realising the potential of the arts, culture, sport and heritage to enrich the lives of young people, especially in our schools."

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