Funding decision looms for former Darlington Arts Centre

The Northern Echo: Revival hopes: Darlington Arts Centre Revival hopes: Darlington Arts Centre

SUPPORTERS of ambitious plans to redevelop a defunct arts centre will soon learn whether it has attracted a major funding package.

The Arts Council is due to announce on January 22  whether it will award £2m to help kick-start the scheme to revive Darlington Arts Centre - which closed last July due to council budget cuts.

A proposal by businessmen Graham Thrower and Andy Bottomley could see the Vane Terrace venue re-open as a hotel and cultural hub if initial funding is secured.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman raised the issue with Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons earlier today (Thursday, January 10).

She said: “I said that it is an exciting, innovative project that won’t rely on public money for its revenue; it is going to be sustainable in a way that such venues rarely are.

“It does need capital investment to get it off the ground and I wanted the ministers to consider it and have a good look at it.”

Ms Chapman admitted that it was “cheeky” to publicly raise the issue with ministers of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport but said she would do whatever she could to help the funding bid.

“I am going to follow it up with a letter because in the situation that I raised it in, you don’t get sensible answers very often.

“I will write and ask if she (Maria Miller) would like to know more and that she would be very welcome to meet with me and discuss the project further.”

The redevelopment plan, titled ‘Project Vane’, would see new commercial parts of the site such as a boutique hotel, restaurant and business units, subsidise a revamped public arts facility.

Darlington Borough Council postponed selling the building in the hope that the scheme will go ahead and Ms Chapman said it would be “tremendous” if it does.

“It would be a real asset to the town; it would be fantastic if we could get this funding.

“This really is a lifeline, it is a very exciting opportunity and it could bring something better than the cultural offering we had before.

“They would be fantastic facilities that would put Darlington on the national map for arts – which is where it should be."

Comments (3)

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11:30pm Thu 10 Jan 13

John Justice says...

Given the present state of affairs regarding public spending it is clear that new innovative thinking is needed to provide services, leisure and arts facilities for the public. On the face of it this scheme appears to go some way to doing that. If arts and leisure can be provided at a cost that will enable a wide swathe of society to experience and benefit from such a scheme then that is a positive thing that should be supported. If the former Arts Centre resumes providing Arts that interest me then I will support it regardless of who provides it.
Given the present state of affairs regarding public spending it is clear that new innovative thinking is needed to provide services, leisure and arts facilities for the public. On the face of it this scheme appears to go some way to doing that. If arts and leisure can be provided at a cost that will enable a wide swathe of society to experience and benefit from such a scheme then that is a positive thing that should be supported. If the former Arts Centre resumes providing Arts that interest me then I will support it regardless of who provides it. John Justice

10:25am Fri 11 Jan 13

D. Hop says...

^^^ Totally agree.
^^^ Totally agree. D. Hop

6:57pm Fri 11 Jan 13

Spy Boy says...

It's an arts centre, Jim, but not as we know it. This is a business venture and WILL NOT replace the original Arts Centre with all that it had on offer.

It may be good to have such a venue in town, but don't think it's going to be cheap to use. Just Google Project Vane for all the usual executive buzz words about the project and you will be able to see what sort of thing we are looking at here.

I would rather have any funding fron the Arts Council used to build a new building that would be a straight swap for the old one. The council can use the procedes from the sale of the old building to increase the amount available to build the new, as promised by Bill Dixon. Mr Dixon has already stated in a meeting that all the money from the sale of the Arts Centre building, shown above, will be 'Ring fenced for the arts.' You will notice that this statement has a built in 'Get-out' clause. If Mr Dixon offered us ratepayers all a £1000 rebate, I'd question it. That's how much I trust this current council.

The Arts Council have already stated, very properly, that they are not there to cover the funding withdrawn by the local council. How will they back a private venture ? The Arts Council were less than supportive of DBC's plans for a new Arts Centre ( Cultural Hub ) a year ago. I was not suprised, given DBC's usual handling of the arts in the town. It seems to me that everything in the town is up for grabs if the right developer comes along. Regardless of what it cost us ratepayers. This is made very obvious by their constant changes of direction depending on which way the wind is blowing in a particular week. If I was the Arts Council representitive, I would be very, very wary of anything our Council £xecutive committee proposes. Once bitten . . . and all that.

What's next ? They are already pointing fingers at The Civic. They tried to shift it once, but who wants to buy a listed building, with all that implies ? I was right about Stressholme. That's going next.
It's an arts centre, Jim, but not as we know it. This is a business venture and WILL NOT replace the original Arts Centre with all that it had on offer. It may be good to have such a venue in town, but don't think it's going to be cheap to use. Just Google Project Vane for all the usual executive buzz words about the project and you will be able to see what sort of thing we are looking at here. I would rather have any funding fron the Arts Council used to build a new building that would be a straight swap for the old one. The council can use the procedes from the sale of the old building to increase the amount available to build the new, as promised by Bill Dixon. Mr Dixon has already stated in a meeting that all the money from the sale of the Arts Centre building, shown above, will be 'Ring fenced for the arts.' You will notice that this statement has a built in 'Get-out' clause. If Mr Dixon offered us ratepayers all a £1000 rebate, I'd question it. That's how much I trust this current council. The Arts Council have already stated, very properly, that they are not there to cover the funding withdrawn by the local council. How will they back a private venture ? The Arts Council were less than supportive of DBC's plans for a new Arts Centre ( Cultural Hub ) a year ago. I was not suprised, given DBC's usual handling of the arts in the town. It seems to me that everything in the town is up for grabs if the right developer comes along. Regardless of what it cost us ratepayers. This is made very obvious by their constant changes of direction depending on which way the wind is blowing in a particular week. If I was the Arts Council representitive, I would be very, very wary of anything our Council £xecutive committee proposes. Once bitten . . . and all that. What's next ? They are already pointing fingers at The Civic. They tried to shift it once, but who wants to buy a listed building, with all that implies ? I was right about Stressholme. That's going next. Spy Boy

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