WATCH: Belgrade theatre has to “find alternative funding arrangements”

Cllr Jim O'Boyle - image taken from Coventry City Council's website

Cllr Jim O’Boyle – image taken from Coventry City Council’s website

Cllr Jim O’Boyle spoke on the need for the Belgrade Theatre and the Warwick Arts Centre, amongst other arts organisations, to look for “alternative funding arrangements” after Coventry City Council, announced their financial plans for this coming year.

Earlier this month, the council released a report stating that its target for 2016/2017, in terms of budgets, is to save £1.2million.

Part of this will be done by “reduced grant proposals”, whereby the council will cut down grants given to public bodies such as the Belgrade Theatre, the Warwick Arts Centre and the Targeted Support Services for Young People.

In an interview for, Cllr Jim O’Boyle of St Michael’s Ward made clear that local councils across the UK have to adjust to lower spending budgets and the arts, seen as a luxury, are the first to be affected by this.

With a “massive increase in demands” and “increased pressure” on social services, Councillor O’Boyle said: “All the plans going forward have to be reviewed because the amount of money will be cut even further… The theatre knows it has to move on as well.”

According to the reports from a Cabinet meeting in January, “The (Belgrade) theatre has plans to increase earnings from existing and new sources of income” and the council will “continue to fund the Belgrade with a core grant of £567,000 going forward, marking the importance that the council continues to have in supporting arts and culture in the city”.

The initial proposal of cutting down £830,000 in public grants has been reduced to a £375,000 for 2016/2017 and will rise to £469,000 for 2017/2018.

“It is important to understand that as a council… The amount of money they have in order to do all the things they want to do… Has been greatly diminished over the last six years,” said Cllr O’Boyle.

The expectation is that the public bodies affected by the cuts will start being more self-reliant and begin raising money through alternative means, as the council grants are expected fall further in the future.

Steven Hill, Director of the local charity Mind (Coventry and Warwickshire), said: “as a charity you have to make sure that you are not fully reliant on funding and donations.

Funding is the icing on the cake and allows us to provide extra services, but we have to make sure we have contacts in place to deliver support for the people we help.”

Nevertheless, the reduction in funds for the art sector will not dissuade Coventry from participating in the City of Culture bid for 2021.

“Any city worth it’s salt would want to do that,” comments Cllr O’Boyle. “Independent surveys have shown that where there has been a City of Culture, it’s been a great boom to their economy,” he says. Speaking of Coventry’s rich history, Cllr O’Boyle said: “Coventry often undersells itself”.

Perhaps a City of Culture bid win is what Coventry needs to promote its potential as an expanding city.

You can read the council’s full reports here.




Raisa Ismail

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