"World-class" theatre performances that would normally be out of reach have been brought to a Jersey screen thanks to a "very generous" anonymous donor's gift to the Opera House, it has emerged.
The revelation regarding the Opera House's recent live theatre screenings programme came in a letter written by Chairman Peter Horsfall to the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel as part of their review of the Government Plan.
Describing the Opera House’s programme, Mr Horsfall said it provided for “spectacular local productions”, as well as a variety of other shows, “from top-class comedians, popular music bands, dance, [and] drama by visiting companies". “In this regard the world could be said to be our oyster,” Mr Horsfall said.
More recently, added to that group have been a number of prestigious theatre and ballet performances from around the world broadcast live on a screen in the Opera House from establishments around the world including the National Theatre in London and Grand Met in New York.
The move to provide live theatre screenings has allowed audiences to view shows that have enjoyed sell-out success elsewhere, such award-winning one-woman comedy show 'Fleabag' by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and 'One Man, Two Guvnors' featuring James Corden.
This week, meanwhile, islanders will get to see a production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' from the Bridge Theatre.
But while the Opera House largely relies on a publicly-funded annual grant, this latest popular addition to the theatre's offering has been made possible thanks to a donation, according to the Opera House Chairman.
“That we are able to produce these high quality, but no risk screenings is not thanks to funding from the States but is thanks to funding from a very generous anonymous donor who has enabled us to expand our repertoire at no financial risk,” he explained.
But while benefiting from this donation, Mr Horsfall was clear in the same letter that the government needed to continue providing funding to help the Opera House truly prosper.
He therefore urged the Scrutiny Panel to support the Government Plan, which includes a £14 million boost for arts and heritage organisations between 2020 and 2023, in the hope it will help support “the irreplaceable Opera House".
Pictured: The Government Plan proposes funding priorities for 2020-2023.
The Government Plan's proposals honour the States Assembly's decision to commit to long-term funding for Jersey’s CAH (Culture, Arts and Heritage) bodies - Jersey Arts Centre, Jersey Opera House, Jersey Heritage and ArtHouse Jersey – as secured by Assistant Minister for Culture Deputy Montfort Tadier in the wake of a damning report exposing chronic under investment in the arts.
The figures presented in an Appendix to the Government Plan show that in 2022, additional funding of £5,425,000 will be invested as “stabilisation funding” for the four organisations, bringing the total funding for arts and heritage to the target of 1%.
The Government intends to build up to this figure, with an extra £700,000 for CAH in 2020 and a further £3,065,000 in 2021.
It’s proposed that 2023 – the final year of this Government Plan – will see £5,060,000 more invested into the island’s cultural provision.
Pictured: The Opera House is in desperate need of some maintenance.
According to the Opera House Chairman, the funding priorities are urgent maintenance of the building, replacement of outdated theatre equipment, and recruiting and retaining senior staff.
Describing the Opera House as “the only fully-fledged theatre in the Channel Islands” with all the equipment and machinery a 625-seat theatre requires, Mr Horsfall said it is not only a “very important part of our cultural heritage" and makes a vital contribution to island life educationally.
Mr Horsfall explained that the theatre also contributes to the “wellbeing and health of the community”, with thousands of islanders, young and old, having taken to the stage, “improving their self-assurance, self-confidence, education, happiness, humour, ambition, a desire to do better and better themselves”, as well as broadening their personal tastes and possibly becoming less dependent on phones and social media.
“Many of these benefits are under the radar, but nevertheless should be recognised and taken into account,” Mr Horsfall said.
Pictured: Thousands of islanders have performed on the Opera House stage.
In addition, he said that enjoying a performance as a member of the audience can “lift one’s spirits and be of benefit to one’s state of mind” - something he said is not irrelevant given current concerns around the island's mental health provision.
Mr Horsfall added: “It is important to recognise that the Opera House makes a really important and tangible contribution to island life and deserves to be promoted and cherished, rather than relatively neglected as in past years under previous government administration.”
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