The Plough Arts Centre is given £25,000 funding to keep it running from Torridge District Council

Thursday 17th September 2020 1:52 pm

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A HUGELY popular theatre has been given a grant to ensure its continued survival, writes local democracy reporter Daniel Clark.

Torridge District Council’s community and resources committee unanimously agreed last week to grant The Plough Arts Centre in Torrington £25,000 of support to keep it running.

It came after the Plough was forced to close as a result of Covid-19 which had a dramatic effect on its finances.

It is unlikely to be able fully reopen until at least April 2021, and has had to make staff redundant, with just five part-time employees left.

John Eels, chairman of the Plough Arts Centre, said that while they had received £35,000 from the Arts Council from the Covid Emergency Fund, this was not a contribution to the Plough’s on-going running costs, and that a crowdfunder appeal pre-Covid had raised more than £54,000 in donations.

He added: ‘While the building may not be open, the organisation continues to provide cultural events. To this point, we have had 22 outdoors performances which have been well attended.

‘We have been inundated with well-wishers and would like to continue that.’

Richard Wolfenden–Brown, director and live event programmer, added that as well as open air events, they had run a community photography project to capture the experience of lockdown, and a dance about the new ways we have greeted each other.

He added: We are an asset for Torridge and beyond and we want to be a positive contribution to Torridge.

‘This is a time for bold thinking and inspirational thinking and we need a go out to help out scheme to make the most of the arts and community, and we can be a part of that.’

Back in March councillors had agreed to grant The Plough £25,000 to help cover its day to day running costs, on the proviso that other funders would match its contribution, but that match funding had fallen short. Officers had recommended that the funding was not released until the business plan and details regarding the long term viability of The Plough was submitted to Torridge District Council for consideration.

But Cllr Chris Bright said that the council should grant the £25,000 for the good of The Plough.

He said: ‘That they are still open shows staying power, and they have raised £54,000 on their own, and they are punished harshly for a very slight miss.’

Cllr Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin said: ‘The Plough Arts Centre is a vital asset to Great Torrington, to the community of Torridge, and far beyond.

‘It is a multi-functioning arts hub, loved by all ages and all walks of life.

‘The high level of support for The Plough was made clear in the form of a very successful crowdfunder appeal pre-Covid, raising more than £54,000 in donations.’

Meanwhile in Tavistock The Wharf Arts Centre has restarted its talks programme and its cafe is open and cinema showing ballet and opera is due to start soon.

Owner Angela Court said various funding applications had been made.

West Devon Borough Council had been very supportive with financial help for businesses, she said, and she was confident the facility would open again in its full capacity when it was safe to do so.


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