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Bath’s cultural scene dealt further blow after council axes arts development department

Bath. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock Bath. Photo: Andrew Desmond/Shutterstock
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Cultural organisations in Bath and North East Somerset have been dealt a further blow, after the local council revealed plans to close its arts development service after more than 20 years.

The moves follows news last year that Bath and North East Somerset Council is to abolish arts grants it awards, which have previously given companies up to £5,000 a year.

Bath confirms 100% cut to arts grants

In its latest round of cuts, the council said it would close its arts development service by February 8, 2019, adding that it is facing “exceptional challenges and pressures to its budgets”. It has to find savings of £16 million by 2020.

“The arts development service is one of several council services that will either be significantly reduced, or cease completely, in order to make the savings necessary to meet this target,” it said.

The council added that it was proud of “what the service has achieved” and of the “benefits to residents created by the many organisations, festivals and projects that the council has supported” since it began the service in 1996.

A spokeswoman for the council the decision to end the arts development service would save £78,000 with the loss of two posts.

Equity South West regional organiser Simon Curtis said the closure was “more bad news for those living and working in Bath and North East Somerset”.

“This will have a detrimental effect on our members’ employment opportunities and the cultural life of the area. There has been a lack of transparency regarding the decisions behind this closure. The council is failing to understand the vital part the arts play in the local economy and community well-being,” he added.

According to its own website, the council’s arts development service worked in areas that have “higher indices of multiple deprivation and where participation in the existing arts offer has remained persistently low”.

Projects that have received funding recently include Natural Theatre Company, which received £26,500 to increase the level of engagement and participation in the arts in the Somer Valley.

Following news of the service’s closure, arts organisations in the area have taken to social media to criticise the move.

Kilter Theatre said: “Kilter had B&NES Arts funding over past eight years. We’ve had the chance to collaborate with local groups and bring free, unique theatre to various communities, young and old, who may never have had the opportunity to access theatre before. In some small way we have changed lives.”

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