DISTRICT ARTS CRISIS
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
THE "critical mass of arts organisations and individuals" in the district is severely neglected in funding and support from council, which has no current arts strategy.
And the Arts locally are set to suffer further after council decided to slash by half its already miniscule budget this year.
It means that the entire sector now only receives £5,000 of funding from council - a figure which consultants commissioned by the local government authority describe as "stark" in comparison to other small cities and regional councils where art department budgets range from £75,000 to almost half-a-million pounds.
The findings come as part of a feasibility study commissioned by council into the refurbishment of Newry Town Hall.
The report - compiled by KPMG in association with Johnston Houston and Jan Branch - notes that a 2006 council commissioned study by Alastair Coey Architects found around £345,000 (in 2006) of work was needed to make the facility fit for purpose. This included "a great deal" of improvement to the interior decorative state of the building, as well as a "radical redesign" of the stage, auditorium and backstage areas.
Despite the 2006 findings, the fresh report notes: "No material work has been carried out on the Town Hall since this study and it is highly likely that conditions have deteriorated further."
The current report also highlights a "notable decline" in events being booked at the Town Hall, particularly in 2012, and suggests this "could relate to the facilities and conditions in the Town Hall".
“A pertinent question is whether a refurbished Town Hall, with more up-to-date facilities and easier access (both for the audience and for performers and associated sets etc) would see an increased level of usage", the report states.
The report also looks at the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, one of the first council-run facilities of its kind to be built in the north.
“While it was considered a trend leader in the 1980s, the Arts Centre is now dated and jaded and would benefit from substantial remodelling and redecoration," the report concludes.
The study has resulted in council being presented with seven options concerning the future of the Town Hall. Option One, "Do Nothing" has already been ruled out by councillors and a meeting dedicated to consideration of the remaining options is set to be held in September.
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