Exeter University steps into operate Exeter Northcott

The Exeter University has agreed to set up a new company to run the Exeter Northcott. The theatre will go ahead with both the Exeter Summer Festival events and is planning a winter programme, including a Christmas show.

The Exeter Northcott is currently in administration and the intention is to transfer control to the university on Saturday, May 29. The administrator will retain various assets, including Emmanuel Hall, which will be sold to contribute to creditors. The university will buy the theatre’s fixtures and fittings from the administrator and already owns the building. The theatre’s current staff of 15 will become employees of a new university company under statutory TUPE staff transfer rules.

The new university company will operate until March 31 next year. By then the Northcott’s stakeholders – Arts Council England, Exeter City Council and the university – will know what funds they have at their future disposal following expected cutbacks in public funding by the new government. The three organisations have agreed to keep their funding at current levels until March 31, 2011 provided they don’t suffer budget cuts this year and that an acceptable programme of activity can be set out for the remainder of the financial year. The eventual aim will be, subject to funding, to set up an independent company to run the Northcott.

Jeremy Lindley, the university’s director of corporate services, said the university had stepped in with the agreement of the other stakeholders to keep the theatre operational. He added: ‘The move to a university-owned company gives the Northcott the best chance of achieving a sustainable future. However, we have to be realistic about the funding environment we are now entering. All three of the Northcott”s stakeholders are publicly funded organisations and there is a very strong likelihood we will have less public funds at our disposal in the future. Nevertheless, we are all committed to keeping the theatre going if we possibly can.’

Arts Council England, South West director Phil Gibby said: ‘The arrangements we have agreed regarding the short term future of the Northcott represent a positive step forward and, although all the stakeholders face financial uncertainties in the future, we are hopeful that we have now achieved a platform from which the Northcott can move forward with confidence.’

Richard Ball, head of Economy and Tourism, Exeter City Council confirmed that the city council is pleased to be working with the Arts Council and the university to try and find a long- term solution to keeping the theatre open.

(from a press release)