ARTS and cultural groups in Colchester are celebrating after a major agreement was made to see them land £1.2 million worth of funding.

Colchester Council has announced it has agreed a new four year funding cycle for its arts partners, including the Mercury Theatre, Colchester Arts Centre and Firstsite.

The three institutions are currently supported by the council on a three year basis, but the new deal will help consolidate the future financial stability of the borough’s cultural hubs.

Coming at a time when theatres, arts venues and galleries are expecting great challenges and uncertainty, this news provides them the vital funds to bounce back stronger after the pandemic.

Gazette: Morale boost - Colchester Arts Centre boss Anthony RobertsMorale boost - Colchester Arts Centre boss Anthony Roberts

The new funding deal will come into effect from the financial year 2023/24 and will see £313,350 available in the total annual grant pot, at a four year value of £1,253,400.

Colchester Art Centre director Anthony Roberts said the news was a “huge boost to morale”.

“Our business is so full of change and uncertainty at the best of times.

“Throw in a global pandemic and 18 months unexpected closure hardly helps either. Another little piece in our journey back to recovery.”

Steve Mannix, executive director of the Mercury Theatre, added: “This is great news. The impact of the pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on us all – but particularly the arts, culture and leisure sectors.

“As we re-emerge, we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Colchester Council to ensure we can contribute to the re-building of our local economy and the health and well-being of our wonderful town.”

Gazette: Great news - Mercury Theatre’s Steve MannixGreat news - Mercury Theatre’s Steve Mannix

The funding will also offer the thriving gallery Firstsite the chance to build on its recent success, having been named Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2021.

Sally Shaw, the gallery’s director, said: “Colchester Council’s support for culture and creativity is exemplary. It has continued to support our creative work through thick and thin, demonstrating its clear understanding of how important art and creativity is for a happy and healthy society.

“There is no more urgent time than now, as we work together to recover from Covid, to create spaces for relaxation, contemplation and inspiration to help us all create new solutions to help shape a new and better Colchester.”

Darius Laws, Colchester Council portfolio holder for economy, business and heritage, added: “Not only does this new funding agreement put Colchester firmly on the cultural map but it is also an important acknowledgement that, in the face of a changed retail environment, our old town centres are now cultural destinations with experience-led entertainment and enrichment opportunities.”