ARTS funding for Colchester’s three top venues is being slashed by nearly from the next financial year.

Between 2018 and 2020, Colchester’s core arts grants for Firstsite, the Arts Centre and Mercury Theatre will total £677,000 - a reduction of £100,000 from 2016/18.

Colchester Council claims the funding settlement has been agreed with the venues, which a spokesperson for the Mercury has denied and says will hurt theatregoers as ticket prices inevitably rise.

The spokesperson said: “We understand times are tough for councils, though this 25 per cent reduction is steep compared to cuts seen in other parts of the country.

"It comes on top of a 10 per cent cut two years ago.

“We have already worked hard to reduce costs and be more efficient.

“We’ll do our best to limit the impact on audiences, but this cut will hurt.

"We will have no choice but to raise ticket prices and review some community activities.”

A cabinet meeting agenda, issued ahead of a council meeting on November 22, states 'the totals awarded to the venues combine Arts Council England and Essex County Council funding, as well as other public, private and commercial sources of income'.


Colchester Arts Centre will be £22,950 worse off. Pictured is Anthony Roberts.

Dr Anthony Roberts, director of Colchester Arts Centre, said: “Of course, cuts are never good news.

“We will be working with the borough council to minimise the impact.

“We are really keen to maintain the opportunities for young bands to play here.”

A Colchester Council spokesperson explained core funding for the arts has remained static for three years from 2015/16 to 2017/18, at around £413,425.

He added: “In 2015/16, the council was able to provide substantial additional funding for the Arts amounting to £150,000 and has also committed £1million of New Homes Bonus money to support the Mercury’s plans for expansion.

"It also continues to provide substantial support in staff time and other resources.”

The reduction represents a 12 per cent shortfall for the three organisations and a further 13 per cent for 2019/20.


Deputy leader of the council, Tim Young, pictured taking part in a dance fundraiser, sympathises with the venues

Business and culture boss, councillor Tim Young, said: “The proposal to reduce core funding for the Arts is a regrettable consequence of continuing and increasing budgetary pressures on the authority, following reduced funding from central Government, and in no way reflects the value placed by the council on its partnership with local arts organisations.

“We're extremely disappointed at having to make these reductions because we value the special contribution the Arts make to a diverse and inclusive community.

"However, given our financial situation, we have to look at every aspect of our spending to be able to continue to protect frontline services as a matter of priority.”

To share your opinion, write to district councillors by clicking here.

  • Figures since 2015/16 were provided by Colchester Council.