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Salisbury Arts Centre describes 100% funding cut as a ‘huge blow’

Salisbury Arts Centre. Photo: Tom Goskar Salisbury Arts Centre. Photo: Tom Goskar
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Cultural leaders in Wiltshire have rallied behind the Salisbury Arts Centre, after it suffered a 100% cut to its funding from the local authority.

The centre, which is a receiving house for productions including dance, theatre and comedy, will lose its entire annual funding of £89,000 from the council from April 1. The arts organisation is the only cultural body in the county to have had its funding cut by Wiltshire Council, which is reducing its £550,000 arts budget.

According to Salisbury Arts Centre, the money equates to 12% of its total income and 25% of its grant income. Its building, St Edmunds Church, is leased from the council for a peppercorn rent of £1 a year, with the council responsible for external repairs and maintenance.

The organisation’s chair, Kate Barker, described the loss as a “huge blow”, particularly as the cut had come so close to the new financial year.

“We have already made significant cost efficiencies in the light of the current financial climate, so a loss on this scale will inevitably impact staff and the level of activity we’re able to provide,” she warned.

Its director, Gemma Okell, said the venue had presented more than 1,600 events last year, and added that the company was committed to making a “tangible difference to individuals and the communities they live in”.

Other cultural bodies that receive money from the council include the Salisbury Playhouse, Ageas Salisbury International Festival and Wiltshire Music Centre.

Salisbury Playhouse artistic director Gareth Machin described the news as “disappointing” and added: “The cultural sector in Wiltshire contributes to the local economy and positively improves the quality of life for many. This relies on a healthy mix of organisations working across the county and Salisbury Arts Centre is crucial to this network.”

Toby Smith, director of the arts festival, described the arts centre as a “vital part of the local arts ecology” and said his organisation was committed to sustaining arts provision for the people of Wiltshire.

Wiltshire Council said that two thirds of its current arts budget went to the playhouse, festival and arts centre, with the rest supporting other arts in the county.

It said: “We have been working closely with the arts centre and we will continue to provide support to help them explore other avenues for funding.”

It added that it had suggested the centre works with other arts organisations in the county to share services and reduce costs through collaboration.

The council’s cut is part of its plan to save £30 million in total.

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