West Berkshire Council and The Corn Exchange Trust have begun talks which could lead to ownership of the landmark Newbury building being transferred to the Trust.
The performing arts venue is owned by West Berkshire Council but has been run by the Trust since the year 2000. Transferring the ownership to the Trust will help ensure its sustainability for future generations and allow the premises to be developed to meet the needs of an ambitious local cultural organisation.
Talks are at an early stage but it is expected that a decision will be made by the end of 2017 and will include a period of public consultation to give local people a chance to have their say.
This move will benefit the Corn Exchange Trust and shows the Council’s commitment to culture in West Berkshire at a time when it has had to reduce its financial payments to the Trust. In March, West Berkshire Council had to reduce its funding for the Corn Exchange by £78,000 in response to a reduction in central government funding and increasing its demand for services. The council has invested significantly in the venue since converting it to a performing arts venue in 1993 and will provide £174,000 a year until 2018/19.
Co-Director, Katy Griffiths said:
“We do understand that West Berkshire Council has to make difficult choices, but it remains very hard for a small charitable arts organisation like the Corn Exchange to manage a cut at this level at short notice. We will be renewing our fundraising efforts and remain focused on our long-term plans and future sustainability.”
The Corn Exchange, recently announced a number of exciting new ventures including a partnership with Greenham Common Trust to develop a brand new visual arts and crafts facility at Greenham Business Park, the launch of a new town-based Learning Centre for all of its participatory activity along with a major grant from Arts Council England to support the expansion of its outdoor performance activities at 101.
“Alongside these developments, as we look to safeguard the Corn Exchange’s future in a climate of continued funding reductions, we have asked West Berkshire Council to consider transferring the ownership of the Corn Exchange building to the Trust” explains Co-Director Grant Brisland. “We understand that ongoing annual funding is going to be a huge challenge for West Berkshire Council and our proposal offers a solution that reduces their liability whilst ensuring that the Corn Exchange’s creative offer in the district will continue to thrive.”
Speaking on behalf of West Berkshire Council, Culture and Libraries Manager Paul James said:
“The Corn Exchange is a local organisation with a national reputation. We are proud to have them in the district and want to support them where we can. Over the past two years it has been increasingly hard for us to provide financial support because of an increasing demand for our services and particularly social care for our most vulnerable residents. We have to balance competing needs for our resources and we believe transferring the ownership of the Corn Exchange will help the Trust in the long term.
We’re grateful to the Corn Exchange for understanding the difficult position we find ourselves in and look forward to continue working with them in the coming years.”