REGIONAL theatres are in “real danger” because of government funding cuts, the artistic director of the Octagon has warned.

David Thacker’s stark message came as Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle made an impassioned speech in which he told how his journey to the Olympic opening ceremony started at the Octagon.

Mr Thacker and regional theatre directors from around the country joined Mr Boyle, whose directorial work includes Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, at London's National Theatre on Thursday.

Award-winning director Mr Thacker said: “The event was extremely important for raising awareness about the difficult financial situation confronting many regional theatres.

“Here at the Octagon we're not yet in a crisis, but things are very hard and we’re having to make cutbacks and raise more money.

“Any further reductions in funding would have a damaging effect but Bolton Council has been incredibly supportive in the context of the huge cuts they have to make.

“They recognise how important we are culturally, socially and economically.

“We hope that will continue to be the case.”

In recent years, the Arts Council and local authorities have been forced to tighten their belts because of government funding cuts.

The conference was organised by National Theatre director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, in response to fears that cuts will rob the UK of its cultural prowess. Sir Nicholas said theatres need continued funding, pointing out that just 0.1 per cent of the total public spend goes to the performing arts.

Also this week, Sir Ian McKellen, who started his acting career at Bolton Little Theatre, told Reader’s Digest how his years in regional repertory theatre had been vital in developing his talent.

Radcliffe-born Mr Boyle—the talent behind the show-stopping and much-celebrated Olympics opening ceremony — told how he was bitten by the thespian bug while working as an usher at the Octagon as a schoolboy.

The 56-year-old said: “When Nick said what we were going to speak about, I thought it was really important to be here, and my journey to the Olympic opening ceremony began at the Bolton Octagon.”

Mr Thacker added: “It was wonderful to hear Danny Boyle speaking so passionately about the impact that the Octagon had on him as a teenager, and it is a powerful example of the importance of theatre in regional towns like Bolton and the effect it can have on people’s lives.

“We are determined to build on our success and secure the Octagon's future.”