Northern Ireland

Call for Stormont to save Derry’s Waterside Theatre as venue faces final act over funding

Theatre and arts centre is set to close in June after 23 years

Derry's Waterside Theatre, which is to close after 23 years. Picture: Waterside Theatre and Arts Centre/Facebook
Derry's Waterside Theatre, which is to close after 23 years. Picture: Waterside Theatre and Arts Centre/Facebook

There has been a call for Stormont support to save Derry’s Waterside Theatre after the venue announced it is to shut this year due to a lack of funding.

It was revealed this week that the theatre, which opened in 2001, was to close at the end of June, with “funding issues” blamed for the decision.

The venue had previously been supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through annual funding, but management was told at the start of April that no money would be forthcoming this financial year.

The theatre’s chief executive Iain Barr said in a statement that the decision followed “careful consideration by the board and management of the organisation”.

“I would like to thank our funders and all the organisations who have partnered with us on projects that have delivered much needed artistic, employment and health and welfare benefits to those most in need in our community,” he said.

Hello everyone, It is my very sad duty to inform you that Waterside Theatre and Arts Centre will close on 30th June...

Posted by Waterside Theatre and Arts Centre on Monday 15 April 2024

“I would like to thank all of you that have attended a performance, visited an exhibition or participated in a community arts programme at the theatre or at the many partnership venues across the city and region. It has been a privilege to serve you.”

Foyle SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has called on Stormont’s Department for Communities to step in and save the venue.

“In 2013, the people of Derry were promised a strong legacy from the City of Culture, yet more than 10 years on, I think it would be hard for anyone to say with confidence that this has been achieved and too often our arts and culture venues have been left to fend for themselves facing drastic cuts,” she said.

“Investing in our arts and culture is critical to local regeneration and to the future economic development of this city and it needs the full support of government. The truth is that we should be investing more in our arts sector, not less, particularly in communities that are most deprived.

“In light of this announcement, I think it is incumbent on the Minister for Communities to review the current funding provided by his department to the arts sector in our city to ensure it is able to thrive, including whether further funding may be available to the Waterside Theatre and Arts Centre, given the contribution it has made to the cultural life of the city.

She added: “I would further urge the Minister to ensure that there is a specific focus on Derry and the North West in the planned new Culture, Arts and Heritage Strategy and to ensure regional balance in the funding provided by his department.”

The Department for Communities has been approached for comment.