The group has, during my time, numbered under ten people, it is in the words of the accountants “not viable”. For many years the Arts Centre supported the group, as it did many other worthy community projects and groups in Bridgwater. This has to end.
This time last year the County Council withdrew funding, this was followed by the Town Council withdrawing the remaining £100,000 funding and handing the building over to the Trustees (admittedly at a peppercorn rent) for 125 years. The Trustees had no choice but to make the three hard working members of staff redundant. At an extraordinary general meeting two weeks ago, a motion was passed stating that the arts centre was not in a position to produce any events, groups or activities that were not going to make a profit. It will also be completely run by volunteers.
So bye bye writing group.
This scene is being played out all around the country. It is the result of a callous government and local authorities forced to tow an ideological line that punishes the most vulnerable in our society. I could talk about this in detail but I am not going to.
Instead I am going to celebrate the achievements of my creative writing group. I found the homework always challenging and learned much from the class. There is nothing more scary yet confirming than having to write for ten minutes on some unexpected topic then to read out loud the result of your frantic scribblings. To use a jazz phrase; such situations really give you “chops”.
I was always impressed with the high quality of work that my colleagues produced and found their feedback not only constructive but supportive. I know that over the last three years or so I have grown as a writer thanks to the opportunity to be part of this group. I have to thank our tutor, Genny, for al her hard work and perceptive comments, the class would not have been half as good without her input. Thanks, Genny.
On Wednesday evening we gathered to celebrate the achievements of all the different groups who use the arts centre, the community choir, the youth drama group, the youth dance group, the jazz workshop and, of course, the creative writing group. Sadly not all of the class members could be present, but those of us who were delivered their words as well as our own.
I was proud to be part of this event. The quality of the performances was of a high standard and the performers put their all into it. There was much talk about courses being suspended – the youth drama and dance groups cannot run, funding is being sought, our group is no more.
Things change, life is change, nothing can remain the same, but when the lights close on the theatres and arts centres of this land, as they are doing, when the doors are locked for the last time and there are no spaces for our communities to come together to celebrate and create, then we will be spiritually the poorer.
(I have taken the photograph from the Bridgwater Arts Centre website-thank you)