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City's most popular arts venue tackling 70 per cent funding cut

The mac in Cannon Hill Park will see its city council subsidy reduced if proposed budget cuts go ahead            

Simon Hadley Fun at the mac
Arts workshop at the mac

Birmingham’s most popular arts venue has vowed to carry on providing free and low-cost events despite seeing its council funding cut by 70 per cent over two years.

mac Birmingham, based in Cannon Hill Park in Edgbaston, will see its annual subsidy cut to £120,000 a year from April, down from £540,000 at the start of 2016.

They have also been told the council is cutting its hire of the venue for meetings and events, hitting mac’s income by a further £100,000 a year.

It is visited by more than a million Brummies each year, offering free events and courses alongside popular paid-for shows, courses, films and exhibitions and bosses have vowed to keep on going despite the funding challenge.

Chief executive Deborah Kermode said: “We appreciate the difficulties the city council faces.

“As an organisation of real importance to our community, we aim to stay true to our ethos - to provide arts for all.

“However, a cut of this magnitude will be felt and as a result we will need to review our current services and partnerships moving forward.

“Our long-standing relationship with the council, created at our inception in the 60s, will continue.

“We have been assured of their continued support and welcome the opportunity to discuss our plans moving forward.”

Graham Young The lake gives you a new perspective of the MAC arts centre
The lake gives you a new perspective of the MAC arts centre

Clayton Shaw, associate director for South Asian arts organisation Sampad, added: “We work closely and strategically with mac birmingham, where we are based, and we are unsettled by the level of the reduction to their funding despite receiving a 17 per cent cut ourselves.”

The mac is the most-visited free attraction in the West Midlands, ahead of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and the 14th most popular in England according to Visit England.

The council is cutting £76 million this year, including £1.7 million from the £4.9 million subsidies it pays to the city’s major arts organisations.

Already, the Birmingham Rep has warned it will struggle to cope and its future could be jeopardy while the umbrella group Culture Central has criticised the council for slow progress in developing innovative new funding plans.

Some, like the Rep and mac, are based in council-owned buildings and would like more flexible leases to enable them to raise more income.

Birmingham Museums Trust also fears it could close some of its historic sites if a £500,000 funding cut goes ahead.

Council deputy leader Ian Ward has previously said: “Like most local authorities, Birmingham faces unprecedented cuts from central government and as a result we must make savings of over £250 million over the next few years - on top of £588 million cuts we have had to make since 2010.

“We value the important role the arts and cultural sector play in the city and, while we have had to reduce our funding further, we are still investing more than £3.2 million into Birmingham’s cultural offer, including open access schemes which support smaller cultural organisations.”

He added that, while the council recognised this would “make life more difficult” for many organisations, it would work with them to enable them to continue.

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