A BURNHAM-ON-SEA theatre has been given more than £28,000 of grant funding to ensure it can reopen after the coronavirus crisis. 

The Princess Theatre and Arts Centre, which is based in Princess Street, has been awarded the grant from The Arts Council Emergency Response Fund.

The £28, 649 grant, funded using National Lottery resources, means that the organisation now has a Covid-19 lifeline which safeguards its future.

The Princess has been part of Burnham and Highbridge’s landscape since 1869 and has been open to the public for performances for more than 150 years.

It has played a big part in local and national history by hosting coronation dinners for royalty, housing the local fire station and town council as well as being an important venue during the Second World War.

Burnham and Highbridge Town Council, which owns the theatre, said the current situation could have seen the theatre 'devastated' as the venue was not eligible for the Government's business rate holiday or hospitality grants.

Beccy Armory, Business Development Officer at The Princess Theatre, said:  “We are incredibly grateful to the Arts Council England for this support.

"It is a real stamp of approval for the work we have been doing, the progress that has been made in my first 6 months and our future business plan.

“Our end of year accounts show that income was up and expenditure was down but the arrival of COVID-19 and necessary lockdown measures meant that overnight we lost 94 per cent of our earned income.

"For every £5 the theatre earns, £4.70 of that comes from our doors being open. We needed a rescue package to not only support the hard work the council has done for the theatre over the years but the new work that was already gathering momentum.

“This funding not only covers some of our lost income to date but also some really exciting projects that will allow us to connect with our audiences whilst our doors are closed.

“We cannot be complacent however; we are working on huge cost cutting measures to ensure that our subsidy is used wisely and the grant will only cover us for a short period.”

Beccy said since lockdown, staff at the Princess Theatre have been working around the clock to contact all customers to tell them about rescheduled performance dates and organise ticket refunds.

 “From the start of lockdown it was my intention to never cancel," Beccy said.

"Our strategy has been very clear: We must reschedule; our community needs something to look forward to when we get back to the new normal.

“Current evidence shows that the first thing we all want to do, is get out and spend time doing what we love with our nearest and dearest.

"As consumers we are overwhelmed with choices to entertain us online and it is incredible how so many performers have adapted to this medium.

"But nothing compares to seeing live entertainment and this is evident in how events and festivals for the future are already selling out.”

Cllr Louise Parkin, chairman of the Princess Management Committee said: “It has been a huge effort to turn the Princess around this past year and to receive funding during these tough unprecedented times means that we can support our community with a continued cultural and creative economic offer for the future.”