Closure-threatened Scottish Youth Theatre bailed out by Scottish Government

Scottish Youth Theatre chiefs have vowed to turn it into a 'thriving national theatre company' after winning direct government funding despite being rejected by arts quango Creative Scotland.

Artistic director Jacky Hardacre said the rescue deal for Scottish Youth Theatre would ensure young people had their own "thriving national theatre company."

The £150,000 emergency grant has halted the planned closure of the 41-year-old company in the summer and is expected to lead to an overhaul of how SYT operates in future.

It has been told to develop new partnerships around the country after securing the backing of the government, which has been match-funded from the private sector.

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The bail-out, the second from the government in four years, emerged less than two weeks after it declared it had “no other realistic option but to cease trading” after again failing to win the backing of Creative Scotland for its plans.

The Glasgow-based company has vowed to “engage with experts from across the cultural and business sectors to build a model that is accessible and sustainable.”

The government’s support stops well short of giving the company the same status as the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

However Jacky Hardacre, the chief executive of SYT, said the future of the company had been secured by the deal, which was brokered following an intervention from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been leading the government’s efforts to promote 2018 as the “Year of Young People.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scottish Youth Theatre has supported many young actors and other theatre professionals to find their voice and launch their careers. There was widespread concern about the announcement that the theatre was facing closure due to its financial position.

“This funding from partners will allow the theatre to maintain its work and complete the ongoing positive changes to their business. It will also give time for further dialogue about a longer-term funding strategy. I have encouraged them to continue exploring all options available to secure a more permanent funding solution.

“I have also discussed with them their continuing ambitions to improve the reach, depth and quality of its work across Scotland, and how this funding will help them towards that goal.”

Ms Hardacre said: “Our focus is firmly on ensuring the nation’s young people have their own thriving national theatre company to engage with, be inspired by and to aspire to be a part of.

“This solution would not be possible without the support from Baillie Gifford and a number of private sector organisations and individuals. Furthermore, the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary have shown a great willingness to explore every option for Scottish Youth Theatre and we’re very grateful for their time and efforts and their clear commitment to youth arts in Scotland."

The bail-out for SYT is a major embarrassment for Creative Scotland, which had defended its decision not to fund the company, saying it had lost out in a “competitive process” for regular funding with other youth arts organisations across Scotland.

It has already been forced to reprieve a number of theatre companies working with children and disabled performers following an earlier government intervention.

News of SYT’s impending closure, announced on 7 March, more than a month after Creative Scotland’s climb down to reinstate funding to five companies, sparked an outcry from leading actors and an intervention from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who told MSPs “all options” would be explored to try to keep the company running.

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said: “We always welcome new funding from the Scottish Government for culture. “We are also continuing our discussions with Scottish Youth Theatre regarding potential ways in which we can support their work in the future.”