THE FUTURE of Stratford ArtsHouse is in the hands of the community.
Two weeks ago Stratford Town trust, which owns the Rother Street venue, made the shock announcement it would shut in May as it was ‘unsustainable’. It prompted an outcry and the launch of a ‘Save Stratford ArtsHouse’ campaign.
Following a meeting this week with Stratford Town Trust, campaigners say they are determined to breath new life into the ArtsHouse.
Campaign spokesman Dominic Skinner is calling on the community to put ideas forward and help come up with a ‘robust and costed proposal’.
The Clopton resident added he wanted to see the venue used not only for arts events, but also for much-needed services like children’s centres, youth groups and even a foodbank, and thought council funding could be the way forward.
Mr Skinner, a member of the Bear Pit Theatre, told The Observer: “If everyone comes together we can achieve fantastic things. By using this space we can improve the lives of people in the community for generations to come.
“We need to demonstrate support and show there is an appetite for the ArtsHouse.
“We’re working against the clock. But since I launched the campaign it’s gone at avalanche speed. I am overwhelmed and inspired by the conversations I’ve had about the ArtsHouse with young people, college students and the elderly.
“It’s time to turn words into action.”
The town trust and the ArtsHouse Trust, which has run the venue since its £1.8million refurbishment in 2014, issued a joint statement this week saying the venue would remain “a focal point for the community”.
The statement added: “The recent public support for the future of the ArtsHouse proves that its unique and adaptable auditorium space is regarded as a valued asset by the local community, that has yet to realise its full potential.”
The statement called on people to propose ideas for a ‘vibrant future’ for the ArtsHouse.
But campaigners were concerned at the lack of any formal plan for the way forward.
Mr Skinner added: “There needs to be a structure and criteria in place especially in the short time we have until closes.
“I think ideally it should be funded for another year in its current guise to give people more opportunity to come up with ideas and a plan.
“Although they are adamant about it being for community use, it seems to be an aspect they are missing. The town is in danger of losing groups integral to arts and the community like Orchestra of the Swan, who will find alternative bases and may not come back.”
“That said, I do understand where the trust is coming from in that it is a burden on funding in the community.
“But the fact so many groups are coming together to help each other shows how invested everyone is in the community, something which means all things to all people.”
The next Save Stratford ArtsHouse campaign meeting is on Sunday (March 11) at 7.30pm at No.1 Shakespeare Street.
Search Save Stratford ArtsHouse on Facebook for more details.