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£10m funding boost for Somerset theatre ‘came as wonderful surprise’

Plan of the new auditorium (South Somerset District Council/PA)
Plan of the new auditorium (South Somerset District Council/PA)

The allocation of £10 million of Government funding to a Somerset theatre was a “wonderful surprise” at a “dark, dark time” for the industry, the manager of the venue has said.

On Wednesday, it was announced in the Budget that The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil would be given the money to help pay for renovation of the venue.

The project will see the capacity of the main auditorium rise from 622 to 900.

Artist’s impression of the renovated theatre (South Somerset District Council/PA)

A fly tower, to be used in the staging of shows, and two smaller performance spaces will also be constructed at the venue, which is maintained by South Somerset District Council.

The total cost of the project is £23 million.

Adam Burgan, arts and entertainment venues manager for South Somerset District Council, said the funding announcement was a “wonderful surprise”.

“We found out along with the rest of the public when it was announced in the Budget,” he added.

Mr Burgan said it had been a “dark, dark time” for the theatre industry during the pandemic.

“It is very strange that our theatre that’s normally so full of life and energy and excited audiences has been quiet for such a long period, but I think coming out of the pandemic, the investment in this project is a really key part of the recovery,” he said.

Adam Burgan (South Somerset District Council/PA)

Mr Burgan said investment in the arts will “bring us all back together to help us make sense of what we have gone through”.

He added the funding will help provide an “economic boost” to the area by creating new jobs.

“I think for us, Somerset has deserved this kind of investment and it is great to see it coming, especially into the rural area that we serve.”

“We will be able to sell a lot more tickets and let a lot more people in to see those really, really popular events.”

More touring musicals and plays will also be able to be staged at the theatre, he added.

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