Arts funding cut at Colchester theatre and art gallery

Funding for the Firstsite contemporary art gallery and Mercury Theatre in Colchester will be cut next year.

Between 2018 and 2020, Colchester’s Firstsite gallery, Colchester Arts Centre and the Mercury Theatre will receive a combined funding totalling £676,850 – a cut of £100,000 from 2016/18 figures.

Year Firstsite Arts Centre Mercury Total
2018/19 £112,450 £55,950 £195,025 £363,425
2019/20 £97,000 £48,250 £168,175 £313,425
Total £209,450 £104,200 £363,200 £676,850

A spokesperson for Colchester Council was reported to say: “Funding for the arts [in Colchester] has remained static for the past three years from 2015/16 to 2017/18, at around £410,000.”

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

Darius Laws, Conservative Councillor for Castle Ward, Colchester said: “It is disappointing to see this Council slashing funds for our arts organisations when there are other areas of questionable expenditure.”

Some residents question if public funding should continue for the Firstsite gallery which they have dubbed the “worlds most expensive toilet”.

Earlier this year residents stood outside and counted more visitors dropping in to use the toilets than those staying to look at the art.

In September 2017, the Mercury Theatre received planning consent from Colchester Council for its Mercury Rising project, the Mercury Theatre’s £8.9m refurbishment and extension plan.

The Mercury is now awaiting final confirmation of its Stage 2 funding from Arts Council England, due to be announced later this November. If confirmed, this will provide a vital £3.5million towards the project.

Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, Deputy Exec Director of the Mercury Theatre in Colchester tweeted to ask the public to have their say on the cuts.

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