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Details revealed of Darlington's 'hotel for the arts'
THE developers behind a project to restore a former arts centre closed because of council budget cuts have spoken publicly about their plans for the first time.
Graham Thrower and Andy Bottomley, the men behind plans to develop Darlington Arts Centre into a hotel, with associated arts space, have pledged to create a “worldclass facility for local people”
and say they are extremely positive about the project.
Their business plan would effectively see commercial parts of the site – a hotel and restaurant – subsidise a revamped arts facility.
The proposal is being closely watched by developers and arts groups around the country to see if it is a viable way of keeping arts facilities open despite the squeeze on the public purse.
The arts centre, in Vane Terrace, was closed by Darlington Borough Council earlier this year as it tried to cut its budget by a fifth. It currently stands empty.
The scheme to revive the building, known as Project Vane, was announced earlier this year, with the outcome of a bid to the Arts Council for funding to develop the site into a boutique hotel with a LANDMARK VENUE: Darlington Arts Centre, which would become a boutique hotel under developers’ ambitious proposals restaurant, alongside a performance hall and two art galleries, expected in January.
Mr Thrower said: “In this country, art facilities have either been publicly-funded or have been commercial galleries.
What’s beginning to be realised is that we need a new template for funding and running this sort of arts venue.
“There is simply not enough public money to go round. It’s a concept that is very interesting to the likes of the Arts Council.”
Mr Thrower and Mr Bottomley, who both have backgrounds in finance, as well as arts ventures, have been working with the council and local arts groups to ensure that any new venue would work for Darlington.
“We all recognise that the arts centre has a place in a lot of people’s hearts,” said Mr Thrower.
“It’s our intention to ensure that the building is accessible and affordable for as many people as possible – not to create any kind of exclusive or elitist place.
“The arts centre as envisaged by us will only succeed if the people of Darlington take it to their hearts.”
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