Norden Farm would ‘end’ if Maidenhead Council withdraws funds
MAIDENHEAD’S Norden Farm could only operate as a ‘room for hire’ if the council withdrew all funding, according to a report.
Recently council leader Andrew Johnson announced he was abandoning plans to cut all its funding to the arts and would instead provide a £140,000 package this year after campaigners refused.
Norden Farm in Maidenhead will receive £115,000 while The Old Court in Windsor is set to receive £25,000.
The council has hired consultants specializing in Counterculture art to undertake a review of Norden Farm to determine if the art space could be “self-funded” if the funding was 100% withdrawn.
The report, released yesterday by Norden Farm, sets out a series of options with scenarios the council would consider.
The counterculture found that if the Royal Borough withdrew all funding it would have to make “tough choices”.
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The venue could not function as an arts center and would instead be a “room for hire” for companies to hold events in the 228-seat theatre.
He says: “With a significant reduction in support, the organization [Norden Farm] will become a different entity, a room for rent without a charitable mission, with a limited educational program if resources permit.
“Analysis shows that the room-to-let financial model is unsustainable given the costs of maintaining a listed building and the loss of key revenue streams.”
The MoD rents the venue for events, which has been a “successful source of revenue”, Norden Farm “does not see” any opportunities for growth beyond that.
The counterculture warned that this “irreversible decision” would result in the “dissolution” of Norden Farm as a charity and the “mothballing” of the building.
‘The costs of restarting a cultural and community center in Maidenhead in the years to come would be considerable,’ the report said.
Norden Farm has seen reduced council funding in the past, such as receiving £80,000 last year while the venue received £141,000 in 2020.
This has led to a series of cuts to stay afloat, such as the reduction of opening hours from seven days a week to five, staff layoffs and the reduction of community projects.
The consultants believe the site has not missed any ‘obvious paths’ to revenue generation or cost redundancies, but advised Norden Farm to undertake a ‘cost-benefit analysis’ to understand where they are most profitable.
In the third option, Counterculture discovered that an investment of £118,000 from the council would allow Norden Farm to continue operating as an arts centre.
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However, a shortfall of £23,700 would persist but could be ‘manageable’ if the site implements a series of cuts to cut costs.
The council is currently investing £80,000 in Norden Farm, but consultants found this would leave the arts space with an ‘unmanageable’ deficit of £99,000 where opening hours would have been restricted, and Norden Farm would have an arts community and “limited” community. program.
The council was offering a community lottery of up to £25,000 for local organizations and projects to bid on. The counterculture “advises against” replacing its arts funding with this, stating that this type of initiative “works well” with continued support.
Counterculture recommended that funding be maintained at pre-pandemic levels.
Cllr Johnson said that after “positive discussions” with the venue, the “social investment” of £115,000, as he puts it, will “open the door to a new era of partnership” with Norden Farm.