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Ballina Arts Centre could face closure

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UNDER THREAT Ballina Arts Centre desperately needs to raise €35,000 to keep its doors open.

Ballina Arts Centre faces an uncertain future in 2020 amid growing concerns that the centre could even be forced to close its doors. Insufficient levels of funding and rising costs are being cited as the main reasons that the popular venue’s future could be unsustainable.
In a bid to raise extra funds, a Friends of Ballina Arts Centre Scheme was recently launched, appealing for local businesses and individuals to become supporters of the project. However, Seán Walsh, director of the venue, believes that it may not be enough to keep the project going.
“For years, I have been saying that the levels of funding we receive are not adequate to cover the running costs of such a big building,” Walsh said. “We receive funding from the Arts Council, Mayo County Council and Ballina Municipal District Council, but I have to say that it is simply not enough.
“The costs of the programme are more or less covered by money taken in from ticket sales, but the extremely high costs of running the building – electricity, heating, insurance, maintenance etc – are crippling us. This is not new news. I have been saying for years that if we don’t get increased funding then the future of the project is in jeopardy. We have done well to keep the place going for as long as we have, but the time is catching up with us.”
The centre, which was redeveloped and opened in 2011, has come to be a crucial and vital part of community life in north Mayo and the county as a whole, presenting a year-round programme of theatre, music, visual art, dance and film, as well as educational and community projects and activities for all.
Ballina Arts Centre expanded at a time when the nation’s economy was shrinking. That it endured one of the worst recessions in history is testament to the project. However, many festivals and venues across the country are succumbing to inadequate levels of operational funding.
All is not lost though, according to Walsh. “There is a small light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it’s not an oncoming train! A good response to our Friends’ Scheme and relatively small increases in funding from our main funders would restore stability to the project.
“The kind of money we are looking for – approximately €35,000 – is, in some contexts, quite small. It would make a big difference to us though. That is why I am imploring businesses to come on board the Friends’ Scheme, and our funders to get behind us and give us the kind of support we need.
“It took a long time and an awful lot of hard work to get this wonderful facility for the area. It would be a crying shame to let it go because of a small amount of money. I need our local representatives to get behind this campaign and fight for the future of this project. If that doesn’t happen, then the reality is the centre will have to close its doors.”

Details of the Friends of Ballina Arts Centre Scheme can be found on the venue’s website www.ballinaartscentre.com.