After going into administration in May, it was announced on 2nd July that the Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) would be closing permanently, making eighty-six members of staff redundant.
The closure comes as a result of Coronavirus causing many shows to be cancelled or postponed, as well as a lack of financial support from the government to the arts sector.
A petition made by Annelie Powell called on Southampton City Council to ensure that “NST and all that it stands for, is preserved for the future of the city and to lobby Arts Council England to ringfence its funding for the work of the Trust.” Despite gaining over 12,000 signatures, a lack of applications appealing to stakeholders ultimately led to the closure.
“For nearly 60 years,” writes Powell, “NST has had a profound impact on its communities, including scores of children and young people. Its support for local talent is undisputed, from its youth theatre programmes that have been a springboard for many, to the Make It SO fringe festivals designed as seedbeds for homegrown creativity.”
18 year-old Katie-Ann Miles received this support from the Make It SO programme at NST for her work in progress play, There’s Some Sunshine. Despite the experimental performance going ahead back in February, the closure of NST means that collaboration with the theatre that helped found her company, Anthead Theatre, is no longer possible.
In a statement released on their Facebook page, Katie wrote: “This theatre was truly our life-blood. Anthead was founded as a result of making work for Nuffield’s Make It SO Festival… Though our time with NST was short lived, we have memories of the Nuffield that will last us all a lifetime. British Theatre has lost an icon today.”
Although Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced a £1.57 billion “emergency support package” for the arts on 5 July, the news might have come too late for NST.
Still, there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Artistic director for NST, Sam Hodges. (@MrSamHodges) tweeted: “Whilst no buyer has been approved through the formal administration process, this doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the Nuffield Theatre as a cultural entity in the heart of the city. Conversations are ongoing between stakeholders and interested parties and there is hope yet.”
Whether Dowden’s support is enough to save the Nuffield Southampton Theatres only remains to be seen. But many regulars, creatives and visitors, are hoping so.
Words by Harriet Metcalfe.