Arts Council visit in wake of call for cuts

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A LEADING light in British art spent a day touring the creative hotspots of Hastings – less than a week after residents voted in favour of cutting funding to the arts locally.

The Arts Council’s regional director Sally Abbott visited 1066 Country to find out first hand about Hastings Borough Council’s plans to use the arts to spearhead the town’s continued regeneration.

And, after meeting with councillors, she was shown round Hastings Museum and Art Gallery which currently includes an Arts Council funded exhibition, The Hastings Rarities.

Later in the day she was taken to the site for the controversial Jerwood Gallery on The Stade and met with the foundation’s director Liz Gilmore.

Ms Gilmore has maintained the new gallery will play a key role in helping bring new investment and businesses to the town despite well-documented opposition from local traders.

Speaking after the hard-hat tour, Ms Gilmore said: “The Jerwood Gallery will be a vital cultural resource for the people of Hastings.

“It (the gallery) is a unique gift and it was great to have the opportunity to discuss Hastings’ growing, rich cultural offer with Sally.”

The leader of Hastings Borough Council, Jeremy Birch, was equally enthusiastic about the authority’s vision for Hastings as a thriving arts hub.

Cllr Birch said: “I was very pleased that, despite her busy schedule, Sally was able to spend a whole day here in Hastings.

“We had a lot to talk about, and a lot to show her.

“It is important that our cultural regeneration strategy delivers its promise.

“Our partnership with the Arts Council, and Jerwood will help us achieve just that.”

Despite the positive words, however, the timing of the visit will have been somewhat embarrassing for the council, coming as it did days after the authority published the results of its Big Conversation survey.

A drop in art funding was among the top five areas locals wanted cuts to fall in.