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By people that connected with Theatre Bristol over its 18 years’ underneath ‘our closure’ block and before ‘a brief history

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a brief history: 2005-2023


Theatre Bristol is an independent organisation founded in 2005 which exists to improve live performance: to make it fairer, more equal and inclusive.

In 1998 Peter Boyden Associates were commissioned to write a report on the state of Regional Theatres in the UK which resulted in a £25 million investment from the Government. The majority of that investment went into regional theatres in the hope it would filter down and develop the sector. The Arts Council South West Area proposed something different; that a relatively small portion of the funding should go into the creation of locality based plans for the development of the theatre industry. They worked alongside local councils, established theatre organisations, and theatres, to produce eight “Locality Plans” for the South West. In these early years, a steering group made up of industry representatives, including Arts Council and the Local Authority, supported Theatre Bristol to establish.

In 2005/6 social media and technology revolutionised the way we communicated. The name, Theatre Bristol was Google inspired – a search query that could  signpost anyone wondering about theatre in Bristol to all the things about theatre in Bristol. In 2006, with Phelim McDermott’s support, Open Space Technology became a central practice for Theatre Bristol, providing people with the conditions to discuss the challenges they faced and propose and enact the solutions themselves. Theatre Bristol’s groundbreaking website was launched which gave visibility and support to people’s practice for the first time, whoever they were.

In 2007 Arts Council England granted Theatre Bristol the funds to work with Bristol Old Vic, and the now more developed sector, to create a new plan ‘Bristol Live’. This report played a significant role in the development of the sector; Arts Council England committed to funding for Bristol Old Vic and, along with other commitments in the city, forming an incredibly strong and dynamic sector.

In 2009, the organisation was incorporated, and moved to having a combination of staff and external Directors on the Board. Later in 2012, Theatre Bristol saw significant changes as it became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation securing regular core funding including the employment of part time Artist Support Associates.


Between 2005–2023 Theatre Bristol facilitated important industry conversations, held critical conversations about the state of the sector, commissioned work, produced and collaborated, led on important sector research and developed art form strategies with a particular focus on Dance and its future in Bristol.

It also:

  • It delivered business development consultancy
  • It distributed seed funding and bursaries
  • It offered bespoke COVID-19 support
  • It delivered business development consultancy
  • It gathered relevant intelligence used to inform its work and influence others


It prioritised supporting people who experience barriers to participating and working in the arts; giving them knowledge, networks, confidence, and connections that helped them create brilliant, distinctive work and reach people locally, nationally and internationally.

In 2022 Theatre Bristol was unsuccessful with their application to continue being a National Portfolio Organisation from 2023–2026. Along with this, Bristol City Council announced a significant delay on funding decisions for their Cultural Investment Programme until March 2024.

In June 2023 after a period of business scoping the Board of Directors made the decision that it was no longer tenable to continue and on the 10th of July 2023 announced the intention to close the organisation.


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