Bridgwater Arts Centre will soon rely entirely on volunteers following cuts in public sector funding.

The arts centre’s board of directors claim the cuts have made it impossible to continue to employ professional staff and so the current paid staff team will be made redundant in December.

Charlie Dearden, arts centre director, said: “It is very sad that it has come to this.

“The staff and board have tried many different ways to reduce expenditure and to bring additional income streams into the business.

“Unfortunately the economic pressures faced by so many in the current financial climate make box office takings and gallery sales difficult to rely upon.

“Without external funding it is impossible for us to continue in our current model.”

Bridgwater Arts Centre has been a publicly funded organisation since its inception in October 1946 and was the first arts centre to be opened by the Arts Council of England in the aftermath of the Second World War.

It has been dependent upon an annual core grant of £80-100k to support its current activity, the bulk of which has come from Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset County Council.

The majority of this was used to cover wages for the two full-time and five part-time members of staff who ran the centre with assistance from a dedicated team of volunteers.

But the arts centre will now rely solely upon its board of directors and its volunteers.

Board member Pat Morley said: “The staff have been wonderful, all taking a 20% cut in wages earlier this year to try and make ends meet, but it was to no avail.

“It will be very sad to see such a dedicated loyal team go. It is however essential that we keep the doors of the arts centre open and continue to offer creative activities and opportunities to local people and to visitors to the area.”

BRIDGWATER Arts Centre Board will continue to operate an arts programme, although initially it will be on a much reduced level with fewer events and restricted opening times.

The board would like to hear from any individuals or businesses who can offer skills, time or financial assistance, in supporting and ensuring a positive future for the arts centre.

There will be a meeting for arts centre friends on Tuesday, December 6, which will be an opportunity to discuss the future with the board.

This meeting is only open to the Friends of Bridgwater Arts Centre. Anyone wishing to be an arts centre friend or to renew their friendship should do so by December 2 by contacting the arts centre on 01278-422700.