'It will be very different' - Norden Farm chief exec paints bleak future if it can't secure funding

10:56AM, Wednesday 10 March 2021

The chief executive of Norden Farm painted a bleak picture of what its future may hold if the arts venue cannot secure more core funding at a meeting on Monday.

The communities and overview and scrutiny panel were given a presentation by Norden Farm over its 2019/2020 accounts and the work it had done since the pandemic began in March last year.

Despite 2019/2020 being an ‘absolute cracker of a year’ and the total income generating more than £600,000 for the first time, when the when the coronavirus crisis began it was forced to close its doors and the revenue was slashed.

John Seymour, chair of the finance committee at Norden Farm told the meeting it managed to get a ‘life saving’ grant of £351,000 from the culture recovery fund.

However the venue is receiving far less from the Royal Borough in its 2021/22 budget - £120,000 down from £233,00 last year.

An additional £50k package of support has been earmarked to be split between Norden Farm and the Old Court in Windsor to help the venues apply for grants which may requite the council to match fund.

John said there remained ‘many uncertainties’ as the council’s core funding grant would end in 2022/2023 with only £80,000 guaranteed in the 2021/22 budget.

He said: “How long will pandemic restrictions remain and will they reoccur? How will our markets be affected by the radical development of the town centre and the new Baylis theatre? How much success will there be in raising additional grants to replace our core funding from the borough?,” he added.

Catherine del Campo (Lib, Furze Platt) asked what the differences residents would see if council funding continued to ‘trickle down to nothing’.

Chief executive and artisitic director Jane Corry said: “if funding disappears completely Norden farm will be a different place for sure. One immediate difference you’ll see is we will only be open to the public half the week.

“The time we are closed we will be trying to get new business in.”

She said the venue would become a ‘hall for hire’.

She said the RBWM grant was so ‘incredible’ as it paid for core running costs but it would do ‘everything we can’ to make sure the doors stay open so the site doesn’t become ‘another supermarket or block of flats’.

“It won’t be the kind of place that we’ve spent so long building, which is open all the time, open for everyone with lots of different activities that everyone can get involved in no matter what their income or background,” she added.

Martin Kaye, chariman of Norden Farm ended on a plea, urging the council revisit core grant funding in the future but said he understood the budgetary constraints the council found itself in.

Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot and Sunninghill) cabinet member for finance responded: “The hope is that Norden farm and the Old Court can find ways to turn that £50k into £100k or more. We have to leverage the funds we have got to get more funding.

“You are not deserted and in Cllr [Samantha] Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle) you have got someone who is going to be fighting for you not only this year but in the years beyond.

“It’s a challenge, we have a challenge next year and we’re going to get through ours and I’m certain you will get through yours.”


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