West Berkshire Council

Corn Exchange building handed over to Trust

Long term sustainable plan to ensure art and culture in is protected and nurtured.

2018 Corn Exchange exterior

As the Corn Exchange looks to celebrate its 25th Anniversary as a flourishing arts centre this autumn, it will also take ownership of the landmark building where it welcomes over 130,000 people per annum.

West Berkshire Council has handed over the building to the Corn Exchange Trust to assist their long term sustainable plan to ensure arts and culture in the district is protected and nurtured for future generations.

Against a backdrop of continuing reductions in public spending, the council had to inform the Corn Exchange Trust in July 2016 that they were no longer in a position to fund the Corn Exchange when the current funding contract ends March 2019.

Following these discussions, the Trust has taken a pro-active approach in managing its own future and has been working with the council and its core funders, Arts Council England and Greenham Trust, to ensure the future of the Corn Exchange.

The Corn Exchange Trust was formed in 2000, seven years after the venue re-opened following an extensive refurbishment, and has since grown its audience and participation numbers as well as its turnover. The council's funding currently represents just over 5% of the £3.2M operation, in comparison to 52% of the £883K turnover when the charity was formed in 2000. In 2014 an independent economic impact study demonstrated the Corn Exchange has a local economic impact of £1.73M, demonstrating the charity isn't just a significant cultural asset, but a business one too.

Grant Brisland, director of the Corn Exchange said: "Passing the ownership of the building to the Trust was one of our suggestions to set us off on the right path and we are pleased that the council has agreed to support us in this way.

"It enables us to be a truly independent charity and it is my responsibility as the custodian of this wonderful building to ensure the arts and cultural activities we make happen here are protected for future generations."

He added, "Every year we generate 86% of our annual turnover through ticket sales, fundraising and income through the Kitchen and bar, so we already work incredibly hard to be less reliant on public subsidy. We've grown and stabilised the organisation and we are in the best position to manage the additional risk this opportunity presents.

"However, it is important for people to understand that we are already responsible for the vast majority of the operational upkeep and maintenance of this landmark building and so they should not be duly concerned".

Paul James, Culture and Libraries Manager at West Berkshire Council said: "We are doing everything we can to ensure that culture and the arts continue to thrive in West Berkshire. They are an integral part of what makes this district such a great place to live, work in and visit.

Over the last 20 years the council has invested more than £8m of revenue funding and £2m of capital investment in the Corn Exchange and we are delighted at the way the Trust has gone from strength to strength in delivering a first class arts service for local people.

"However, in recent years, council's all over the country have had to make tough financial choices and sadly, this means that we are no longer in a position to continue to provide funding to the Corn Exchange after March 2019.

"For the last 2 years we have been discussing with the Trust and the Arts Council what we can do to help ensure that the Corn Exchange remains on a sustainable footing in the longer term. Therefore, in November last year, we agreed to the Trust's proposal of transferring the freehold of the building from the ownership of the council to them given the many advantages for the future of the arts in this area."

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: "This is an exciting time for the Corn Exchange Trust as they take full charge of the building they have been running, with substantial support from West Berkshire Council, for almost 25 years. For the last three years of this the Trust has been an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and we are delighted to be continuing our relationship with the Trust as they embark on this new chapter.

"We're sure that the range of work they deliver and the range of people who experience it will continue to expand, benefiting Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond."

West Berkshire Council and the Corn Exchange are inviting members of the public to hear more about the transfer of the building at a special event on Wednesday 18 April at 6pm at the Corn Exchange. Admission is free, tickets are available online online or via the Box Office 0845 5218 218 (calls will cost 2p per minute plus your telephone company's access charge) and are strictly limited to six per household.

The Corn Exchange has also issued a set of questions and answers relating to the asset transfer on its website today. Any questions should be submitted to director@cornexchangenew.co.uk