Following a joint review, a proposal is being investigated to set up a trust to run the apex and the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds through a single management team.
The trust would retain the unique identity of both venues, provide a coherent cultural offer to residents and visitors, and make significant efficiency savings through a single management team, shared box office and marketing.
The results of the review have been the basis of discussion between St Edmundsbury Borough Council, (which owns the new apex venue), and the board of trustees of the Theatre Royal, which agreed the proposal to share management in principle on 9 July. St Edmundsbury's Cabinet will consider the proposal at its meeting on 25 July. If approved, work on the detailed business plan will take place over the summer, and form the basis of a final decision, to be made in the autumn.
Suffolk County Council and Arts Council England are major investors in the Theatre Royal and are closely involved with the development of these plans.
The move will create the capacity in one organisation to develop work with young people, training opportunities, the Bury Festival, and opportunities to work with other partners in West Suffolk.
Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, St Edmundsbury Borough Council Cabinet member for Culture and Sport said,
"The vision for the Apex was to provide a first class venue for residents and to attract visitors to the town. We are very pleased with how it has established itself in its first two years and this review argues that shared management with the Theatre Royal would bring a focus to the cultural offer in Bury St Edmunds at the same time as enhancing the special character of two unique buildings. There is a great deal of work to be done but this trust would position Bury St Edmunds at the forefront of cultural provision in this region and we are delighted that the Board of the Theatre Royal share our aspirations for arts in this area."
The cultural life of Bury St Edmunds has a direct influence on the town's quality of life with the combined investment in the Theatre Royal and the apex generating £10 million for the local economy.
Brian Stewart OBE, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Theatre Royal said,
'We want to raise the positioning and profile of the Theatre Royal, both artistically and commercially, and changing our business model and working more closely with the apex makes sense on so many fronts, at a time when funding for the arts is limited. Bury is extremely fortunate to have a fine historic theatre, and an excellent new music and entertainment venue, and this new partnership will mean an even better arts offer for local residents and visitors, and Bury punching above its weight locally, regionally and nationally. The existing apex and Theatre Royal brands will be maintained, but with closer working and realising efficiency gains we can improve the quality of what we can offer, and invest in better box office services, catering, other facilities, technical, and sales and marketing support.'
Helen Lax, Regional Director, Arts Council England said:
'Arts Council England looks forward to receiving the formal proposal for this new venture, which will look to consolidate the artistic offer currently provided by the Theatre Royal and the apex. This approach has the potential to strengthen the arts and cultural provision for residents in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding areas, as well as provide an exciting platform through which new, emerging and established artistic talent can build partnerships and showcase work. Our work with St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council shows us that working in collaboration can lead to new ideas, and for us, great art for everyone'.
Cllr Judy Terry, Suffolk County Councillor, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development said,
"I am delighted that we have been able to work so closely with St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Arts Council and Theatre Royal on this review. We want to ensure that we get the best arts and entertainment at great value for money. We will continue to play a significant role in this partnership"'
The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is the UK's last surviving working Regency playhouse. Under the care of the National Trust, it is a Grade 1 Listed building, which underwent a £5.3 million restoration in 2005 to return it to its original 1819 layout and design. The Theatre Royal is owned by the Greene King Brewery, leased by the Brewery to the National Trust, which in turn has leased the Theatre to Bury St Edmunds Theatre Management Ltd to run it as a working theatre.
The apex - Commissioned by St Edmundsbury Borough Council and opened in 2010, the acoustics of this award winning building are internationally acclaimed and world famous performers in a wide range of musical genres have performed there.