A WINCHESTER theatre is appealing for support as it begins its bid to become a charity, to secure its long-term future.

Directors of the Nutshell Theatre, in Kings Walk, have said their services are at “immediate risk” if it doesn’t act now. The organisation aims to raise £35,000 to fund core costs, rebuild its reserves, grow its bursary scheme and continue its programme while it becomes a charity.

The Nutshell Theatre and Discarded Nut Theatre Company plan to merge into one charity delivering creative services later this year.

Noël Jones, artistic director, said: “We’re very passionate about the work that we do, particularly with young people, and this appeal is vital in helping us continue. Becoming a charity opens up so many funding opportunities for us and will mean we can keep providing access to the arts for all members of our community. We’ve seen the joy and well-being benefits that being involved in the programme of work we offer can bring to people and there’s still so much more we want to do.”

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Hampshire Chronicle: Directors Harriet Morris and Noel JonesDirectors Harriet Morris and Noel Jones (Image: Sam Gavins)

Harriet Morris, executive producer, said: “When we first set up and took on the building in 2018 we had already been running Discarded Nut since 2010 so we had grown our theatre company into something really high level with fantastic engagement.

“We were apprehensive about taking on a physical space so we decided to keep both organisations separate to start with and see if it works – which it does. We wanted to create a small grassroots venue with accessible price points and lots of creative opportunities.

“The options for us to explore more funding are not there unless we become a charity. The work we do is already so closely aligned to charitable objectives. We’ve got a great team of trustees and we want to use that energy to take it forward. As a charity we will be able to access capital funding projects, our priority would be to install a lift and improve accessibility.

“We have been hit really hard by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, the impact on the arts is still being felt. It wiped our reserves, we were dipping into them to keep ticket prices low when we reopened. We have kept our engagement and the quality of what we deliver really high so we now need to lean on our community to bridge the funding gap until the charity application comes through.

Hampshire Chronicle: The makers market at The NutshellThe makers market at The Nutshell (Image: Sam Gavins)

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“Anything people can give means the world to us. If anyone would rather book a ticket or say hello and tell their mates about us that would make all the difference.”

The theatre company is applying to become a charity in the coming weeks but won’t receive a response for up to six months. In the meantime, the Nutshell has launched a Crowdfunder to raise £35,000.

The money raised will go towards extending the pay what you can and bursary schemes and staff wages. For more information or to donate go to crowdfunder.co.uk/p/thenutshellappeal.

As well producing and hosting its own shows, The Nutshell has worked with external organisations such as Flying Colours Education, GiggleBugs, Winchester Comic Fair, Winchester Print Fair, ENCORE Youth Theatre, Florian School of Dance, Winchester School of Art, University of Winchester, Winchester Chamber Music Festival, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Winchester City Council, Winchester Life Drawing Club, The Yard, Winchester Round Table and Play to the Crowd.