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500 sign petition against closure of Hampstead Theatre's education programme

PUBLISHED: 17:30 05 July 2012

A petition has been launched to protest against the closure of the arts education programme at Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Wikipedia

A petition has been launched to protest against the closure of the arts education programme at Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Wikipedia

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A petition has been launched to protest against the closure of Hampstead Theatre's arts education programme - described as a "shining light" in the community at a time of economic struggle.

In April, the theatre in Eton Avenue announced that its creative learning programme, which has been running for 14 years and involved some of the most vulnerable people in the borough, was to close at the end of July.

This followed the complete withdrawal of £94,000 funding from Camden Council in the wake of central government cuts.

The petition, created by local residents involved with the programme and signed by more than 500 people, has asked for the decision to close the department to be reversed and for the core and most progressive parts of the programme to be maintained.

Gregg Ripley-Duggan, executive producer at Hampstead Theatre, supported the petition and said: “We think that the cut to the programme is a disgrace. However we believe that we need local council support from Camden to deliver this service.

“I think that the petition is wrongly-directed. The people behind the petition should be lobbying Camden Council, not us. If they reinstated our grant tomorrow we would reinstate the department tomorrow.”

If the theatre continues to deliver the programme it will be left with a £65,000 deficit and the Arts Council will not renew its funding.

“That means that the institution will then risk full closure and the department will never come back,” said Mr Ripley-Duggan. “So we have to protect the theatre first-off, then we have to look at ways of affording this secondly.”

But the theatre does hope to re-open the education programme in 2014 carrying the cost itself.

Sian Morrison, a performing arts teacher who has referred many children to the programme, described it as “the best in London if not the country”.

She said: “There are a lot of theatres who have had their funding cut who have preserved their education programme because they see it as a priority, a strategic decision.”

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