An arts venue which helped keep a town’s cultural community groups alive is set to close next year. 

The Bridge Centre for Visual Arts, on Hundens Lane, Darlington, became the base for dozens of creative groups after their previous arts centre venue closed in 2012. 

Staff have cited a lack of funding and available volunteers for its closure. 

Darlington Borough Council, which ran and closed the town centre venue, owns the current building but said it did not influence the decision. 

The community-led venue also houses the Community Art Project and was home to organisations such as the Press Gang Etching Group and Darlington Media Group, as well as the monthly Arts Café.

The Northern Echo: A final closure date of March 31, 2024, has now been confirmed.A final closure date of March 31, 2024, has now been confirmed. (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

The project provides an opportunity for adults with learning disabilities to try out visual arts activities with support and encouragement from a professional artist.

But a final closure date of March 31, 2024, has now been confirmed.

Staff at The Bridge say the last few years have been ‘challenging’ for the charity and struggled to raise vital funds. 

Chris Clark, director, added: “Even with financial support from various grants provided, the current income falls well short of the core costs of operating The Bridge. As a registered charity the Trustees would be irresponsible to knowingly let the charity run into bankruptcy.”

Funding bids had led to some financial support but it “fell well short of the funds needed for the long term stability of The Bridge,” Mr Clark added. 

There has also been an issue of recruiting volunteers to keep the venue open. 

He said: “The few remaining were finding it an increasing burden and for a variety of understandable reasons are unable to increase that personal support.

“We recognise that many funding bodies are receiving vastly increased requests at the moment and are not able to support all ventures.  The Bridge is one of those that most felt unable to support.”

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“The Bridge has advised us it will cease operations as both a registered company and a registered charity,” said a spokeswoman from Darlington Council. 

Continuing the Community Arts Project is a council priority and officials are exploring options to relocate to a new venue, the local authority said. 

The spokeswoman added: “The charity has operated The Bridge Centre for Visual Arts building on a lease from the council for more than five years and we recognise the fantastic contribution it has made to the visual arts in Darlington during this time.”