A CLASSICAL concert series which has been held in Southend for almost 25 years is being scrapped after losing its funding.

Southend Council has withdrawn its £180,000 subsidy from Southend Theatres, which organised the string of events between October and June.

The final concert, by the Moscow Philharmonic, will take place at the Cliffs Pavilion, in Station Road, Westcliff, on Sunday, May 21.

Council leader John Lamb blamed the decision on a drop in audience numbers.

He said: “As part of the recent 2017/18 budget process, it was agreed that we would take away the £180,000 annual subsidy that we pay to Southend Theatres from April 2017.

“We are achieving this by varying our 2006 contract with them, which will remove the requirement for the theatres to produce an International Classical Concert Series, which accounts for nearly half of that subsidy.”

Mr Lamb added: “I must emphasise that Southend Theatres will still be programming classical music concerts which will be more accessible, commercially viable, and popular, but which will be part of the overall annual season, rather than as a prescribed concert series.

“The international concert series has been in place for many years, but more recently has seen a significant decline in audience numbers, despite an extensive marketing campaign. This has led to an increasing financial challenge to the theatres covering the considerable cost of staging the concert series, which the Council’s subsidy has been meeting.”

This season’s concert series was made up of eight shows.

Paul Driscoll, marketing manager for Southend Theatres, said: “It was no longer viable to put on the series. We are in our 24th annual series but every year we lose a considerable amount of money. We’ve tried hard to attract audiences from across Essex without success.

“However, in our last season in June last year we sold out. It was the whole Planet suite accompanied by Nasa film footage, and this season we had a concert with the Royal Philharmonic which again sold out.”

Mr Driscoll added: “We won’t be putting on a series of concerts again but there is a demand for less formal and imaginative concerts that have an appeal.”

Ron Woodley, leader of Southend’s Independent group and a classical music lover, added: “I think it’s a shame but funding cuts from central Government are having a major impact on local authorities and something has to give.”