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LATEST: Hazlitt secures government funding months after council tried to shut it

Thursday 8th April 2021

THE Hazlitt Theatre has won government funding to ensure its survival after months of uncertainty over its future, Downs Mail has learnt.

Parkwood Theatres, the umbrella organisation which runs the Earl Street venue, has secured bail-out cash from the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

Although the sums amounts to a little under £100,000, management described the package as "brilliant news" for the arts in Maidstone.

Late last year, Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) threw the Hazlitt's future into serious doubt when it threatened to withdraw its annual subsidy for Parkwood to run the theatre to save money in the wake of falling revenues caused by COVID-19.

MBC leadership planned the termination of the Parkwood contract, laying off of staff and "mothballing" the theatre.

The proposal caused instant public outrage and a Downs Mail campaign to reverse the plans.

The efficiency would have amounted to about £140,000 a year after costs.

The government cash boost, ringfenced for three months, means plans for this Christmas's popular panto can proceed apace while securing workers' jobs.

Parkwood Theatres managing director, Tony Doherty said: "We were deligjhted that our bid to the CRF was accepted and it gives a little more certainty going into the future.

"This has been a very unsettling time for everyone, not least our loyal and skilled staff. But it is great news for them and great news for the people of Maidstone who have missed the Hazlitt so much."