Croydon Council could axe entire arts service

By Culture24 Staff | 08 December 2010
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A photo of a clocktower
Croydon's Clocktower could close under local council proposals to axe the entire arts service in the town© Ross Burgess
Croydon Council is considering axing the town’s entire arts service, shutting the Museum of Croydon to the public and closing cultural hub the Clocktower in a bid to save up to £1.47 million.

Clocktower Arts and the David Lean Cinema, which host 100 live events and 900 film screenings a year for 35,000 people, would cease to exist if the council opts to take the most severe proposal set out.

All arts provisions in the area would be removed, with a “permanent static display” replacing the public museum and up to 32 full-time staff losing their jobs, including all senior management. The Clocktower and community hall buildings would also close.

Members of the public have been given until January 6 2011 to give their views in a consultation survey. The questionnaire asks residents to choose the cultural events and venues they rate most highly in the town, from the Croydon Summer Festival – which the proposal recommends would save £150,000 if it was abandoned – to local studies and archives, Black History Month and community facilities.

The arts service currently operates with seven staff and an annual budget of £650,000, providing 300 workshops and training sessions for 6,000 people. The annual programme of activities is estimated to attract 125,000 visitors.

The Museum of Croydon hosts permanent displays and manages collections including the Riesco Collection of Chinese Ceramics, the Croydon Art Collection, oral and social histories and archaeological sections.

Around 80,000 people visit the venue annually, and this year it borrowed artefacts from the British Museum for Dragon Tales, an exhibition which won £50,000 in project funding.

An email by Arts Participation Officer Oliver Tipper, sent to the Croydon Advertiser, said that community projects could be threatened by the plans.

"It is highly likely that these cuts will also mean no David Lean Cinema, no theatre, music or comedy at The Clocktower Arts Centre and no Croydon Summer Festival. There will also be less exhibition spaces and no museum education programme,” he wrote.

“I strongly urge you to have your say.”

Staff and users of the service are understood to be dismayed at the proposals. A three-year, £18 million programme to refurbish the town’s Fairfield Halls entertainment centre was also met with derision on the comments section of the Advertiser’s website.

The Croydon Guardian has already launched a campaign to save the town’s heritage, publishing angry reactions from local supporters.

“I understand the position they find themselves in, but there are some useless clerks and ‘officials’ at vastly inflated salaries who would not be missed,” said local historian Brian Roote, slating plans to close the Local Studies Library.

“They have accepted the archives and undertaken to safeguard them and they should accept their responsibilities. What do they propose doing with them?

“We would be lost without the local studies library, it is that simple.”

Melvyn Harrison, the chair of the Crystal Palace Foundation, said the council would “look a bit sad” if the facilities were cut.

“If they closed all of these services, there would be nothing left in the Clocktower – it would just be an empty shell,” he warned.

“To go down this drastic route would be a hit to the face.”

Councillor Sara Bashford, the council’s Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture and Sport, said the authority would “very much welcome” public views on the plans.

“These services have benefited many people over the years and we are very proud of our achievements,” she pointed out.

"Today’s challenging financial climate means that the council must make savings of £90 million over the next four years.

"We therefore have to make difficult choices on various ways to do this across the Council, which include considering options for reducing funding for the arts and heritage services.”

Read the options document and respond to the survey here.
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