A nationally-recognised theatre company which works with disabled actors will see its funding cut – putting its long-term future in jeopardy.

Dark Horse Theatre Company, based at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, has lost £100,000 in funding from the Arts Council – despite being supported for the last 14 years.

The company currently trains people with learning disabilities to work alongside actors, writers and directors on a national level.

But from next Spring a key part of the work of the company – its touring productions – will be stopped due to a 30% drop in its funding.

Company director Vanessa Brooks said: “The affect of having £100,000 withdrawn from April next year has meant we have quickly looked at what we can continue to deliver.

“We have made a decision we cannot continue our planned national touring programme, which integrated disabled and non-disabled actors and had been hugely successful.

“It just makes no sense to us. We recognise there’s only a certain amount of money and we never expect funding from the Arts Council, you can’t. But our application wasn’t one that in any way failed, it was actually quite strong which makes it very disappointing.

Dark Horse theatre logo at Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield.
Dark Horse theatre logo at Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield.
 

“We can only think diversity is not as high up on the criteria as it once was.

“We are considering appealing the process but have had to act now to cut our planned touring production ‘I Love You Baby’ as we had theatres booked.

“It is such a shame as we started 14 years ago at a community level and have grown to a nationally-recognised touring theatre company.

“It really is a tragedy, particularly for the actors and for the industry as a whole.”

Dark Horse was one of 58 organisations nationally which will no longer be included in the Arts Council’s National Portfolio from 2015-18.

The funding cut will mean the touring success seen with production Hypothermia – which was staged at the Cockpit Theatre in London – and Sing Something Simple, performed at major venues including The Lowry in Salford, will come to an end.

However, the company has vowed to continue actor training courses, affiliated to the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts.

Vanessa added: “We need to show that learning disabled actors are capable of work at the highest level rather than the lowest level, which is usually the only level they’re allowed to work at.”

Dark Horse is a registered charity and also funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Kirklees Council, BBC’s Children in Need and various trusts.

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