Barnard Castle arts centre in 'healthy' state a year after public appeal
By Trevor Brookes - Editor
A YEAR after a fundraising appeal was launched to keep it open, The Witham is reported to be in a “healthy”position.
Financial statements will be released at the arts venue’s annual meeting on Thursday, August 8, at 6pm.
But in a verbal update to town councillors ahead of the meeting, vice chairwoman of the board of trustees Ada Burns said The Witham, which recently launched a new website, is looking to open on more Sundays and increase its number of volunteers.
She added: “I would describe things as healthy. We have got a more diverse programme and that’s proving popular with our customers and visitors.”
Last August The Witham smashed its target of raising £30,000 in 30 days to keep the building open because the centre was heamorrhaging money.
Ms Burns said the trustees have been trying to put the venue on a sustainable footing since then.
Improving the programme was a key aspect, she told the partnership committee.
“We are currently working on what will be a really good autumn programme,” she said. “We’re also very keen to increase the number of volunteers who are the lifeblood of the organisation.”
She added that the cafe and shop were popular and the friends scheme was taking off with hundreds of people signed up.
It costs £25 per person to join – or £40 for two people living at the same address – and in return, members will receive a number of benefits. Ms Burns added: “We would like to be open more. We are very conscious that people come through the town on Sundays and Mondays but it’s closed. But it comes down to the bottom line and resources.
“We had a classical recital on a Sunday. It was very popular.
“We have got three afternoons when The Witham is going to be open on Sunday and we will see how that goes. We would like to be able to do more.”
But Cllr Ian Kirkbride said anecdotal evidence suggested that 60 per cent of people who popped into The Witham during the day were asking for information about the town. He wants to see a better visitor information point in Barnard Castle. The meeting heard that Visit County Durham had offered training for volunteers who staff The Witham’s visitor point.
The Witham’s annual meeting, which is open to the public, will take place at the Music Hall and will include a review of the year and plans for the future.