While the recent Tory U-turn on grants for this year was welcomed the grants not being renewed by Stroud District Council in future years is causing major concerns amongst many key local organisations. It will have a very serious impact.
Organisations like Stroud Valleys Project look to see their core funding slashed year on year while arts organisations are also facing the plug being pulled on their funding over the next four years. The amazing Open Studios project (see last year here and elsewhere on the blog other entries re the Open Studios) which involved over hundreds of artists opening their homes in the District may not even be able to go-ahead. This is all seriously concerning - art is a vital part of Stroud's economy - see more here - we must not underestimate the impact this small amount of funding has on keeping alive our economy - indeed in these times of recession we need that more than ever.
Director of Prema Gordon Scott was quoted in the SNJ saying this would have a "devastating effect" on local art projects and could even spell closure for Prema. Prema, which has been running for the last 30 years, will see its grant of £10,000 drop to £5,000 next April and half again the year after, ultimately being cut by 2012. He said: "This will make a massive difference to us, I think it could end in redundancies or worse. I understand that the council needs to make some savings, nobody wants their council tax to go up, I don’t want my council tax to go up. But they are cutting grants to some of the most vulnerable organisations. We cannot absorb these kinds of cuts. We already run on a skeletal staff, but I can see that we may have to make redundancies. We also employ around 200 local artists throughout the year and this would have to be cut down."
A large part of Prema’s income comes from Arts Council England, however Mr Scott said the council expected funding to be a partnership and that if they see there is no local support they may cut their funding as well. He continued: "I want to make clear that Prema is not about to close and won’t close in the next year or two, but I am concerned that these grant cuts could create a domino effect and we would be left without enough funding to continue. Then we would have to close."
On top of all these grant cuts I am very sad to hear that after 12 years in Stroud the amazing Stroud House Gallery near the station is set to close. Lyn Cluer Coleman, the curator has consistently put on a series of wonderful exhibitions - I will greatly miss the chance to be challenged and excited by the many artists who showed there - indeed at one time I even volunteered several times to help Lyn use her new iMac there - not sure how great my help was but I did help her send one of her first emails from the gallery there!
Lyn is remaining active in the arts world and has already helped organise an exhibition in Cheltenham - see more here. However Lyn closing the gallery is another blow to local arts. How best can we challenge the 'cuts' to funding? Greens were unable to support the recent budget for a number of reasons - primarily the lack of action on climate change but the failure to renew grants was also concerning. The amounts being 'cut' from organisations are dwarfed by the money going to the canal.