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Securing a sustainable future for The Beacon Arts Centre and Community Centre

Robust plans are being prepared this month to secure a sustainable and ‘best value’ future for The Beacon Arts and Community Centre.

The arts and community centre has provided Wantage and the surrounding areas with an important and lively focus for arts and the community since 2014.

The Beacon supports the wellbeing of residents by offering a good quality programme of live performances, cinema screenings, as well as offering an affordable venue for hire for community activities including dance, sports, special interest groups, wellness activities and community support, and social events. The venue is also a designated ‘Safe Space’ and hosts a community larder once a week.

A report going before Vale of White Horse District Council’s Cabinet on 16 February, sets out plans to enhance the future of the arts centre – to maximise its community benefit and financial efficiency, and to establish its long-term sustainability.

The report outlines an 18-month action plan for the arts centre that will strive to optimise in-house operations. This ranges from the launch of an Arts and Culture Strategy and also encompasses practical work on improved show programming and how we can work closer with the community and local businesses.

The plan will also look to enhance signage, marketing and branding, alongside how best to access additional grants and external funding. The potential to re-introduce a coffee shop will also be explored as well as the opportunity to secure funding for major decarbonisation work.

Currently several local groups and businesses use the venue to run activities for a range of people, including vulnerable groups for whom limited alternatives exist. The action plan will look to promote this more widely in the community.

Cllr Helen Pighills, Cabinet Member for Community Health and Wellbeing at Vale of White Horse District Council said: “Investing in arts, culture and heritage in our district continues to be important for us as we know it contributes to quality of life and community wellbeing. Alongside the affordable shows it offers, The Beacon is also an indispensable resource for community activity.

“As our detailed action plan shows, we are currently working on plans to secure the future of The Beacon, our arts and community centre located in Wantage. Our proposed Beacon Development Action Plan sets out how we will optimise our inhouse service at the arts centre and make improvements to the building itself, over the next 18 months. As part of this, we will also explore all longer-term options open to us to establish the continued sustainability of the centre. 

“This is an exciting time for our arts and community centre. We’ve faced so many challenges over the last few years – with the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis, but we are hopeful there any many opportunities for us to now grow and flourish. I’m particularly pleased we can explore the option of bringing the café back and look at ways to secure funding to decarbonise the building.

“Whilst financial efficiency is a focus for improvement, the Beacon provides a valuable public service and is a part of our ongoing, long-term commitment to invest in arts and culture for the wellbeing of our communities. Our action plan includes exploring additional sources of external grants and funding.”

The work is set against the wider national challenges to all arts and culture facilities following the impact of the Covid pandemic, and subsequently by the inflationary environment and cost of living emergency.

Over the last four years, as well as commissioning external expert reviews, the council has made a series of changes to the management and delivery of its arts service in an effort to reduce the cost whilst also protecting this valued service.

Cllr Helen Pighills added: “Alongside this important focus The Beacon, we will also develop a district-wide Art and Culture strategy which will look at how we work with, support and deliver local facilities, events and initiatives. We will seek everyone’s views on this later this year.”

View the full report and action plan here (item 10.).

Find out more about The Beacon Arts Centre here: