Britain’s only horse-drawn theatre faces closure over funding crisis

  • Britain’s only travelling horse-drawn theatre troupe is fighting for survival after losing vital Arts Council funding.

    Sabotage Theatre uses two piebald cobs, Prince and Buddy, to pull the traditional bowtop caravan to venues around the southeast. The third horse, Bonny, a 14.2hh 20-year-old, carries the saddlebags.

    Once the 11-strong theatre group reaches its rural venues in churches, woods and fields, the top of the caravan is lifted off to become the base of the stage.

    A grant from the Arts Council paid for last year’s development of production The Looker, but there has been no further funding this year.

    “We could have cancelled the tour, but we would have had to pay back the match funding and all the work would have been wasted,” said Zoe Hinks, the group’s founder and artistic director.

    Funds from various charities including Lady Neville Skinner’s charity, The Little Cheyney Wind Farm and the Roger de Haan Charitable Trust have enabled the tour to take place this year.

    A Crowdfunder campaign launched last Thursday (22 June) raised £2,000 in the first four days, but the group needs £10,000 by the end of July to keep going.

    This weekend The Looker will be performed at St Peter’s Church in Firle, near Lewes.

    Founded in 2008, Sabotage Theatre started using horses to travel around the country in 2011 after being introduced to the idea by another theatrical company called Horse and Bambo.

    The horses are looked after by Lisa Dear and Steve Jones, who have both worked with working horses for over twenty years.

    Audiences can see the horses when the plays are in production, but they are not used in the shows.

    “Everything we do is geared up to having a horse drawn tour, but if we don’t raise the money we will have to look at whether or not it is sustainable,” said Ms Hinks.

    “It hasn’t beaten us yet, but it’s a scary prospect.”

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