New president of Anvil Arts keen to leave the challenge of funding cuts behind


THE new chairman of Anvil Arts’ board said his goal was’ a lot to get ahead ‘as he takes office just months after the organization lost nearly £ 400,000 of public funding.

Speaking to The Gazette three weeks after taking the role, Chris Smith said: “When I heard [about the cuts] in the news I was saddened. But as I understood, we are in a situation that the world has never experienced before. So, finding local communities facing enormous financial challenges is no surprise.

“It’s a lot about moving forward from this point on. The conversations have been so positive. There is no point in our analyzing the why and the how, not for me. My investment of my time, energy and experience is in the future.

In April, the organization was shaken when Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council announced it would cut in half the money it had originally planned to invest in the coming year.

This led to a petition set up by supporters of the theater across the borough and beyond, with the head of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, as well as Anvil CEO Matthew Cleaver, backing calls for “Reverse cut”.

In an open letter, Council Chief Ken Rhatigan and Deputy Chief Simon Bound accused the organization of failing to provide a solid financial strategy, to which the organization responded that uncertainties of the pandemic did not allow for plans. full at that time.

However, Chris Smith is keen to put the “challenges” aside and continue with the “positive conversations”.

“One of the things we have to remember is that Anvil benefited from the investment from the Cultural Recovery Fund, so in a sense there was a balance and the blow to the organization was not as serious as initially feared, “he said.

“It happened, there were reasons for it to happen and I was not there, we are moving forward and the support is there, financial and philosophical.”

He continued, “I think we are very lucky because Basingstoke is relatively wealthy compared to many other local authorities, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to manage its budgets and make sure. that the local residents, of which I am a part, are getting the best returns and the best services, ”he said.

“I think Basingstoke and Deane have over 30 years of experience delivering Anvil and have invested huge sums in the cultural sector because, as a new city, they saw the value and potential of the Anvil. arts to attract people to the city, and we’re kind of back in a time where that’s a huge priority.

Chris added that he had previously attended meetings with the Chief of Council and Deputy Chief, as well as with Basingstoke MP Maria Miller.

He said: “Everyone, without a doubt, wants the Anvil, the Haymarket and the entire Basingstoke cultural sector to thrive.

“I think it’s also about changing the way we look at things. We want people to think it’s not funding, it’s an investment. This is the message we need to get across. Rather than thinking that this is something elite cultural, let’s understand that it brings investment into the city on a large scale.

Chris has lived in Kingsclere for 21 years and has worked in the cultural sector for almost 40 years.

He is currently the director of the WOMAD Festival Group, but has worked in the arts industry across the country.

After attending the University of Glasgow, prior to his current job he worked for ten years in Scottish theaters, established and directed cultural services in Reading and also worked on a major Arts Council building project ‘a theater and arts center in Wales, among others. .

“I think the attraction to it is because I live here, because I have children who are from the cultural scene here. I felt I could make a contribution, ”he said.

“It was an opportunity to get involved locally and use some of my skills and experience to make a difference.

“It’s a different field and even with my many years of experience it will be a whole new set of challenges, but I feel like stepping into an organization ready to take on the challenges of change. ”

Thanking the Basingstoke audience for their continued support, he added: “There is no doubt that the wave of support and energy is uplifting, but we will need this support in the future, we just need to some time to work with our partners and internally to come up with the plans we need, and then we’ll come back and ask people about that support and how it can manifest itself in delivering the city.

“Despite some interesting challenges, the dominant sentiment is support. This is true everywhere, but I think that here the arts seemed to be valued at a higher level because they are part of the DNA of the city.

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