Thousands back petition to reinstate Norden Farm funding

Shay Bottomley

shayb@baylismedia.co.uk

A petition calling for the council to rethink its plans to cut grants funding for arts centres in the new financial year has reached more than 4,300 signatures.

It comes as councillors continue to argue over the future of arts centres such as Norden Farm and The Old Court in Windsor, which are set to receive no funding from the Royal Borough in the draft budget for 2022/23.

The petition was launched last week for the Public Campaign for the Arts on Tuesday, and has amassed 4,348 signatures at the time of going to press.

As it has not been posted on the council’s website, the petition itself cannot be debated by councillors at an official meeting.

Speaking on the launch of the petition, Jack Gamble, director of the Public Campaign for the Arts, said: “The Old Court and Norden Farm are jewels in the crown of Windsor and Maidenhead, and they will play a vital role in the Royal Borough’s social and economic recovery.

“At a time when they are already contending with the severe financial impacts of the pandemic, a 100 per cent cut in council support is indefensible.

“We urge Andrew Johnson and the cabinet to reconsider, and for all those who care about the future of the arts in Windsor and Maidenhead to join our campaign.”

The issue over arts grant funding has raged on social media in recent weeks.

Last week, Norden Farm’s CEO, Jane Corry, warned council grants are ‘absolutely essential’ to its future in a front page story on the Advertiser.

With the council’s budget consultation set to close on Monday, councillors have urged residents to participate to make their views heard.

An independent external consultant is currently compiling a report on ways in which Norden Farm can continue to operate if funding were to cease.

Tory councillors have repeatedly said on social media that they will await the findings of the report before deciding on next year’s budget.

On Twitter, the leader of the council, Cllr Andrew Johnson, said: “We’re committed to Norden Farm being successful, hence bringing in an independent expert consultancy to look at all options to make them more self-financing.

“We need those key outputs to discuss what are the best options to support in future & how it can become more sustainable.

In a separate tweet, he said: “We have jointly agreed with Norden Farm an independent expert consultant review and we await the findings imminently.

“Hence why no draft budget line item, but also why I brought forward [the] earliest RBWM budget consultation yet to enable early discussions and dialogue with our partners.”

Visit www.campaignforthearts.org/petitions/rbwm-council-fund-our-local-arts-and-culture/ to view the petition.

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