End of an era for Arts Council for North Herts after funding cut

PUBLISHED: 07:01 07 May 2019

Arts Council officers and committee gathered for the final meeting. Picture: Lisa Foreman

Arts Council officers and committee gathered for the final meeting. Picture: Lisa Foreman

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The Arts Council for North Hertfordshire has held its last meeting - three years after North Herts District Council's decision to cut the group's grant scheme.

The Letchworth Morris Men performed at the Arts Council for North Herts' last EGM last week. Picture: Lisa ForemanThe Letchworth Morris Men performed at the Arts Council for North Herts' last EGM last week. Picture: Lisa Foreman

The arts council, which has been running since 1968, is a volunteer-led group providing grants to groups in the district, while funding festivals and other events. 
Arts council president Dr Mervyn Miller said at the group's extraordinary general meeting last week: “I was appointed as president of ACNH in June 2006. I have witnessed the vibrant diversity of events enabled by ACNH embracing choral, orchestral and chamber music, recitals, folk music, local music festivals, youth and experimental theatre and film clubs, and the added community value accrued.

“Hertfordshire is worthily to celebrate a County of Culture in 2020, and a comprehensive 'what's on' web calendar has been set up.

“As it ceases to exist, ACNH endorses this landmark initiative as it looks back with justifiable pride on its achievements.”

Chairman Brian Foreman, who has been involved with ACNH since the '60s, added: “What does the future hold for the arts in North Herts? It may be difficult, though not impossible, to maintain the high standards achieved by all our member organisations.

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“Will North Herts ever get an arts centre like the Gordon Craig in Stevenage? The nearest we came to that was the Plinston Hall in Letchworth, which was closed down.

“Will our local artists, local art clubs, societies and school sixth forms ever be allowed to book their exhibitions with sufficient room provided in the new district museum? Will Hitchin once again have space for the location of a cinema?”

“Your vote to wind up the arts council as a member organisation is no doubt the only course of action that can be taken. NHDC will be held responsible for making a mockery of its contribution to the Hertfordshire Year Culture 2020.”

Steve Crowley, NHDC's service director for commercial, said: “In light of financial pressures in recent years we have had to carefully consider how we allocate grant funding and make some difficult decisions because of this.

“As part of this process a decision was made to reduce the amount awarded to the Arts Council for North Herts gradually, meaning they would receive their final grant funding from us in the 2019/2020 financial year.

“The Arts Council for North Herts was advised of this decision in 2016 to give them sufficient time to seek alternative funding in order to continue their activities.

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