Final curtain could fall on Huntingdon arts programme

THE future of arts and entertainment at the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon is in doubt after it emerged funding cuts could bring an end to the current programme of events and shows from April.

Volunteers from Performing Arts at the Commemoration Hall (Patch) urged members of Huntingdon Town Council to re-think withdrawing funding for the hall’s artistic programme at a council meeting on Thursday.

They warned that without the �21,000 provided by the council last year, programme director Lydia Eldridge would lose her job and the programme would fold.

Patch member Teresa Leone told The Hunts Post: “Patch believes that we are about to celebrate our sixth birthday due to the five years Lydia has dedicated to Patch and the Commemoration Hall. Her leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to the performing arts has enabled the town to have an arts programme for all people from all walks of life.”

Chairman Linda Cullen said: “Lydia is passionate about the arts so she willingly does this with bags of energy and flair. Her enthusiasm is infectious and motivates volunteers, young people, artists and audiences alike.”

Each year there are about 30 shows/events at the Commemoration Hall. However, poor ticket sales – and a stumbling economy – have forced councillors to rethink their support for Patch.

And at last week’s meeting they shied away from reinstating funding, even though they were told the Huntingdon Commemoration Hall Charity could not take on the management of the art programme in the council’s place.

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Cllr Tom Sanderson said: “This council cannot afford to run the artistic programme. It cost us last year �18,000. I think our decision was correct.”

Councillors had proposed in November to withdraw their financial support for the programme. The decision was approved by the finance committee and ratified by full council last month.

It was resolved to ask the hall charity to take on responsibility for the programme, but Cllr John Morgan, who is a hall trustee, said the charity was forbidden by its constitution to take such a step.

He said: “I think it is very sad that this council has decided not to continue the artistic programme.

“I think it is unfortunate for the members to imagine the Commemoration Hall Charity can rescue this event when it cannot. If the council does not provide this service, we cannot.”

Speaking after the meeting Patch volunteers said they felt they were now in limbo.

Treasurer Anne Beevor said: “We have to see what happens, but we are really hanging on a string. We do not know what is going on.”