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THE ARTS: Yeovil a ‘priority place’

THE ARTS: Yeovil a ‘priority place’

Image: Google

Yeovil could see a sharp rise in arts funding over the coming years after being granted “priority place” status.

Arts Council England (ACE) has identified the South Somerset district (and in Yeovil in particular) as a “priority place” for arts investment over the next three years – meaning the area could see a rise in grant funding for new cultural programmes and projects.

The district is one of only 54 places across the UK, and one of only 11 in the south west, which was awarded this status – with the government seeking to direct funding to communities previously “under-served” by the arts.

The decision has been welcomed by South Somerset District Council, whose £23M upgrade of the Octagon Theatre has already attracted £10M in government funding.

Over the next three years, ACE will work with the local authority and relevant partners to bring increased investment into the local arts and culture through grants and match funding.

The status is designed to help the arts sector recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, during which time theatres and other venues were forced to close for long periods.

Of the other 10 areas in the south west, only one other Somerset community will benefit from this status – Weston-super-Mare (which falls under the remit of North Somerset Council).

ACE chief executive Darren Henley said: “Artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries have found creative new ways to serve their audiences and communities since the start of the pandemic.

“Our new delivery plan shows how we’ll work with them to build on that spirit of imagination and innovation as our society reopens.”

The council’s £23M upgrade of the Octagon Theatre was approved in late-March, with architects now working on the detailed designs of the improved performance areas.

On top of the £10M promised by the government in its 2020 budget, the theatre is aiming to raise £250,000 through its own fundraising campaigns, with a further £50,000 expected to come from local housing developments.

The remaining £12.76M will be loaned to the theatre by the council, and will be repaid over a period of years through a levy on all tickets.

Council leader Val Keitch said she was delighted that South Somerset was a priority for future arts funding.

She said: “Alongside the £10M HM Treasury grant to be administered by ACE, we are investing millions of pounds to redevelop the Octagon Theatre as a council, to see it become a flagship venue for the arts and entertainment in South Somerset – and our commitment to deliver this scheme will enable the district to become a real hub for the creative arts.

“We have been a champion for the arts for many years, recognising the benefits they bring to health and well-being and bringing communities together. Our district is home to superb artists and arts organisations, and is brimming with local talent.

“We want South Somerset to continue to be a place where communities have access to exceptional cultural activities. We fully welcome the new priority place status for the district and look forward to seeing new opportunities arise with this new partnership.”

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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