Arts organisation faces closure

AN award-winning organisation set up to bring world class art and music to rural East Anglia could shut down in the New Year due to funding problems.Wingfield Arts' board of trustees has announced that the centre will cease trading from January 1 after 25 years of successful artistic endeavour - and its state-of-the-art building could be redeveloped as housing.

AN award-winning organisation set up to bring world class art and music to rural East Anglia could shut down in the New Year due to funding problems.

Wingfield Arts' board of trustees has announced that the centre will cease trading from January 1 after 25 years of successful artistic endeavour - and its state-of-the-art building could be redeveloped as housing.

But last night its founder Ian Chance, who only stepped away from running the organisation last year, said he was confident supporters would rally round to save the centre.

The move has been prompted by a combination of funding problems, including the withdrawal of future cash from the Arts Council and Suffolk County Council, the trustees said.

In a letter sent to The Friends of Wingfield Arts, they said a consultant was appointed to assess the options for the future of the organisation, based near Eye.

The process identified five options for the future, including the local authority taking it over as a visual arts centre, transferring it to another arts organisation and disposing the company's property for development.

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The letter, from chairman of the board of trustees Andrew Evitt, and Ed Day and Peter Jenkins, from the board of trustees, said the Arts Council and Suffolk County Council had advised any decision involving take-over or future funding is unlikely at the moment.

“This would leave us therefore with no option other than winding up Wingfield Arts and disposing of the assets to pay off long suffering creditors and the first charge that is owed to the Arts Council from the Lottery grant, awarded for the development of College Yard,” the letter says.

“Therefore the current intention is to market the property owned by Wingfield Arts either for use by another arts organisation or for commercial development, probably for housing.”

In the 25 years since it was founded Wingfield Arts has developed from small scale concerts in Mr Chance's home to a dedicated rural arts promoter staging more than 100 concerts and events a year in churches across Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk. It was also responsible for the annual series of concerts over four weekends in July and August at Framlingham Castle.

College Yard has been developed to provide a base, including a modern temperature-controlled gallery in a medieval barn, rehearsal rooms and additional exhibition space. Among the artists whose works have been displayed are Picasso, Matisse, David Hockney, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst.

Mr Chance said: “This is a terrible shock and I am sure all our supporters will be very sympathetic and will want to rally round to help us recover it.

“I think Wingfield Arts has made a unique and pioneering contribution to the arts in rural England.”

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