Nicola Sturgeon has promised to “explore all options” to keep open Scottish Youth Theatre after it announced it would be forced to close this summer because of a failure to secure regular funding from Creative Scotland.
The pioneering theatre group, whose alumni include Gerard Butler, Karen Gillan and Douglas Henshall, confirmed on Wednesday that it had been left with “no realistic option” but to cease trading on 31 July, as the funding gap for 2018-21 represents a third of its required income.
Speaking during first minister’s questions on Thursday, Sturgeon said that while the Scottish government has no say over Creative Scotland’s funding decisions, the announcement was “of serious concern to people across Scotland and to me”.
Questioned by the Scottish Greens leader, Patrick Harvie, who also described how the theatre group has “enriched and transformed” the lives of young people across the country since it was founded 41 years ago, Sturgeon said that she had already asked the Scottish ulture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, to meet with the SYT.
Sturgeon went on: “While I can’t give detail about what those options might be, today I certainly give a commitment that we will do everything we can to fully explore all options to allow young people in the future to benefit from the Scottish Youth Theatre in the way that young people in the past have done.”
Henshall, recently acclaimed for his role in Network at the National Theatre, described the cuts as “baffling”. He told the Guardian: “The SYT was a place that, in the most encouraging of ways, introduced and nurtured the possibility that acting was a career for the likes of me and thousands of other young people who had thought it impossible and impenetrable.”
Creative Scotland said that it was disappointed by SYT’s announcement and that it was “fully committed to supporting access to creativity for young people”.
The funding body has been subject to heavy criticism over the past few months for a series of controversial decisions about who would receive public funds over the coming three years, with the fallout leading to the resignation of two board members.
Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch stepped down amid anger that the funding list omitted a number of respected youth and disability arts companies as well as two hugely respected musical ensembles.
Following the resignations and a reconsideration of the initial applications, Creative Scotland announced it would restore funding to the Dunedin Consort, Scotland’s premier baroque ensemble, as well as the children’s theatre groups Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions.