Supporters of Rhodes Arts Complex in Bishop's Stortford petition town council to pledge financial support
The Rhodes Support Group presented Bishop’s Stortford Town Council with its first ever petition.
The call for continued funding of the Rhodes Arts Complex by more than 1,800 signatories was handed over at Monday evening's (Feb 4) town council meeting. A rule change before Christmas now allows such lobbying.
The petition reads: “We the undersigned call on Bishop’s Stortford Town Council to continue to support the Rhodes Arts Complex and Museum on its current site in South Road by means of an annual grant, sufficient to maintain it as a viable venue.”
Of the 1,804 total, 1,260 signatures come from residents in the CM23 postcode area and 544 from outside the town.
A support group spokesman said: “They are from people of all ages and diverse sources – the town carnival, local organisations such as U3A, the fine arts society and via local papers, parish and community magazines, local schools and businesses.
“The majority of the 544 signatures from outside the town belong to residents from Sawbridgeworth and High Wych and other outlying villages, who also regard the venue as their local entertainment hub and recognise the museum as the home of their local history.”
The town council is set to contribute up to £3m to a new £28m arts centre with 500-seat theatre at Old River Lane as part of a £47m investment in a cultural quarter in the Causeway planned by East Herts Council.
The town council currently supports Rhodes to the tune of £250,000 a year, but earlier this year its finance and general purposes committee recommended that this sum should be the maximum grant for both venues and that both should present business plans to determine their grants.
However, the town council's leader, Cllr John Wyllie, told more than a dozen Rhodes supporters at Monday's meeting: "Rhodes is not under threat. This agreement allows Rhodes to continue. It has a fantastic role to play in the arts in Bishop's Stortford. It will change and evolve as it has always changed and evolved.
"It's not going anywhere – if anything it's going up and onwards."