Council withdraws Wingfield Barns funding

A council is withdrawing its financial support for a north Suffolk arts complex from April.

By the end of this financial year, Wingfield Barns, near Diss, will have a deficit of �33,000.

But with owners Mid Suffolk District Council pulling the plug on funding support, plans have been stepped up to confirm bookings for the coming year to ensure it at least breaks even.

A Community Interest Company (CIC) was formed nearly a year ago to take over the running of the arts complex and the council has now confirmed that, from April, they will no longer be offering the new management team any assistance. The CIC will, however, continue to use the buildings rent free.

Wingfield Barns general manager Lesley Jackson said the CIC has now established itself and it had a wide range of arts events lined up, as well as conferences and weddings.

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She said: 'Any organisation which sets itself up as a CIC has a good couple of years bedding-in.'

'I don't think there's any getting away from the fact that to deliver a programme as bold and varied as we have will, in the first couple of years, costs money.'

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'The figures that are predicted just from the confirmed events, conferences and weddings, mean it's already predicted that we will break even next year. It's a major year and the calendar has never looked busier or better, in terms of quality.'

Tim Passmore, leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, confirmed that the executive committee had agreed on Monday to continue renting out the site for free, but to no longer invest any money in making ends meet at the complex.

The �33,000 overspend predicted for the current financial year mainly consists of an 'underachievement against income' of �17,000, plus additional management costs of �14,000, as well as additional management and legal fees for the development of the CIC.

Mr Passmore said it was important to avoid mid Suffolk becoming a 'cultural backwater', adding: 'We would like it to be a success, but we can't go on forever pumping money into something.

'Not taking in rent is a subsidy, and I accept that, but all rural arts projects require some sort of support.

'I'm pretty confident it will work. If there was an absolute disaster then we would have a look at whether we could help, but we will try within our fixed budget.'

Comedian Phill Jupitus appeared at the centre to read extracts from his new book and become its new comedy patron last month.

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