Fear for future of Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon as threat to axe grant looms

The Commemoration Hall, Huntingdon.

The Commemoration Hall, Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

The Commemoration Hall is at “great risk” as it is feared its grant from Huntingdon Town Council will be cut.

For the current financial year the town council reduced its annual support to the High Street venue to £29,600 from £37,000.

The grant was also set to go down by another £7,400 from April this year, and reduce by the same amount over the coming years until it reached £0.

However on December 19, Commemoration Hall treasurer Peter Clark discovered the town council’s finance working group had recommended that the grant be removed completely, putting the venue at risk.

Mr Clark said: “Myself and the trustee chairman were having a meeting with the mayor and the town clerk to see if we would keep the grant at the same level for the next year but found out the recommendation was that it would be reduced to zero.

“What we would like is for the council to agree to keep it at the same level for next year and then look to see if we can survive on less, and if we can, then we can reduce the grant.

“If they remove the grant, the Commemoration Hall is at great risk.”

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Annie Welsh, secretary of Performing Arts at the Commemoration Hall (Patch) and trustee, told The Hunts Post: “If the hall were to close it would be a big loss to the town. It is a great asset.

“It was a great shock to hear that it was a possibility. There are lots of groups who use the hall, including the Huntingdon Youth Theatre, Hunts Drama Club and professional groups and there’s not anywhere else as good for them to go. Every month there is a performance and it is used most days.

“We want people to attend the council meeting on Thursday, January 15, at 7pm to show their support for the hall to get them to reconsider.”

However, Huntingdon mayor Councillor Bill Hensley said the grant would not be withdrawn altogether but would be reduced over time to allow the hall to become self sufficient.

The hall was built in 1840 as a Literary Institute and was renamed in the 1950s to commemorate those who had died in the Second World War. It was also expanded to incorporate the stage and auditorium.

From 1959, the town council operated and subsidised the hall, until a board of trustees was created in 2006 and took over responsibility.

Do you think the Huntingdon Town Council should keep paying a grant to Commemoration Hall? Email editor@huntspost.co.uk.