AN arts venue will almost certainly buck the national trend by receiving a major increase in public funding next year.

The Arc in Stockton, which was once closed for two years owing to financial problems, will receive funding of £304,031 in the next financial year from the Arts Council, The Northern Echo can reveal.

That figure, already agreed in principle, is an increase from £238,815 granted from the Arts Council for the current year, a 27 per cent increase worth £65,000.

The Arc's funding from Stockton Council is expected to decrease slightly from £234,897 to £225,501 from April next year.

However, more than half the income of The Arc now comes from money generated by the Dovecot Street arts centre itself, from hiring out rooms to increased ticket sales.

Craig Millar, business manager at The Arc, said: "The increase from the Arts Council has been agreed in principle and is the result of a lot of hard work.

"We're trying to reduce the proportion of income we need from the taxpayer, right in line with Government thinking. We have branched out into new areas like using our retail area, hiring office space and having the place used for parties and office space.

"We develop talent for professional artists, 140 of them, and that has led to us exporting shows to other venues, which has also helped.

"We haven't improved our sales by just bringing in a lovely show from London but have worked hard on ourmarketing.

"That's led to a big per cent increase in ticket sales. For example, we no longer produce a brochure. It was no longer cost effective but we contact our customers through the post, by email, Facebook and Twitter, and we try to give information specific to that particular customer, to tell them what's on that we already know they'll like.

"We would like to be a model for others, but that's not to say other venues aren't doing great things too."

FACT FILE The Arc replaced the Dovecot Arts Centre when it opened in January, 1999. It was supposed to cost £8.5m but ended up costing £9.5m.

The Arts Council paid £7.45m and the rest came from Northern Arts, the National Lottery and Stockton Borough Council.

There were teething problems with the building.

Lights could not be switched off, the air conditioning did not work and it leaked.

The Arc needed a £225,000 bail-out from the council after only eight days.

It built up debts of £2m but, despite creditors writing off 86 per cent of that, it closed in November, 2001.

The building was empty for two years, but a consortium of local businessmen took it over, after the Arts Council and Stockton Borough Council agreed to fund £400,000 annual running costs, and it has built up an audience ever since.