Council’s Ropetackle funding decision criticised as ‘short-sighted’

Volunteers from Ropetackle and members of the Shoreham Society
Volunteers from Ropetackle and members of the Shoreham Society

A decision by the council not to award Ropetackle £10,000 in grant funding has been branded ‘extremely disappointing’ by the arts centre’s chairman.

The refusal meant that the organisation was unable to secure the £45,000 in funding it had been promised from the Arts Council, which Ropetackle chairman Martin Allen said was dependent on being partly matched by the local authority.

Mr Allen said: “It was an extremely disappointing decision.

“The council are missing a trick by not giving that really modest funding for what we provide for the area.”

Funding from Adur District Council and the Arts Council last year enabled the centre to hire its first full-time director, Phil Jackson.

But the loss of the funding this year has meant that Mr Jackson has been let go.

Mr Allen stressed that the future of Ropetackle was not under threat.

He said: “There is no doubt whatsoever we will be continuing and building on what we have done over the 11 years we have been going.”

However, he said the funding decision put in jeopardy the possibility, suggested by the Arts Council, that Ropetackle could be awarded National Portfolio status – a prestigious title held by the Brighton Dome and Chichester Theatre.

Other ramifications include a review of the organisation’s outreach programme, Mr Allen said.

The council’s decision was ‘short-sighted’ when taking into account the results of a council study which found that people coming to the Ropetackle spent more than £800,000 a year in the area, Mr Allen said.

He added that the decision was a ‘question of choice’ rather than an issue of resources, considering that last month the council awarded £10,000 in funding to Shoreham’s literary charity, Wordfest.

Chairman Gerard Rosenberg said the Shoreham Society was ‘dismayed’ by the decision.

He said: “It’s taken the Ropetackle back two years and its now making the volunteers work harder to sustain it. They are absolutely crushed by this and see it as deeply unfair.

“Every arts centre relies on some kind of funding from the local authority.

“There has been a huge amount of work to make Ropetackle such an amazing centre.

“It’s a miracle that it’s done so well over the last ten years.

“It really is the jewel of the crown of Shoreham.”

But councillor Neil Parkin defended the decision. He said: “Last year we gave [Ropetackle] £20,000 and we told them that’s it, it’s a one off and they weren’t going to get anymore.”

He said the council had already set its budget when it was asked for the £10,000 funding from Ropetackle and so had to refuse.

He said Ropetackle had received more than a quarter of a million pounds in funding in the last ten years from the council, and said: “They’ve been there long enough, they really should be able to get their act together.”

The council already gives Ropetackle £20,000 per year, he said.

Mr Parkin added that the county council also has a grants budget. “Why haven’t they asked the county council for funding?” he said.

An Adur District Council spokesman said: “We continue to support arts and culture in the district as can be seen from our first-time grant to Wordfest for events that will go beyond Shoreham and into Lancing and Fishergate, supporting people who may never have experienced the arts before.

“We remain extremely supportive of the Ropetackle and have backed them with direct and indirect funding to the tune of some £268,000 over the last ten years.

“What we have done is to look at the spread of our funding and decided to focus on events and programmes rather than simply handing it out for the running of venues.

“As always these things are constantly under review but what doesn’t change is our commitment to support culture in any way we can.”

READ MORE: Literary charity is boosted by council grant of £10,000

Ten years of Ropetackle: ‘an inspiring miracle’