A COMMUNITY is celebrating after smashing a £30,000 target to secure the future of an arts centre.

Hundreds of people rallied round those at The Witham, in Barnard Castle, when the board of trustees announced they would need to raise £30,000 in 30 days to safeguard it against closure.

The Investing in The Witham campaign was launched on July 7 and saw a range of challenges and fundraising nights put forward to raise the money needed for the arts, cultural and community centre.

And a last-minute surge in donations saw staff and volunteers jump for joy when it was revealed more than £42,121 had been raised.

Fundraisers included a volunteer-led Morrison’s bag pack which generated more than £570; the donation of goods for sale in the centre's shop including artworks, scarves and jewellery; sponsored challenges including café manager Suzanne Wallace's 15km sponsored run, marketing manager Sarah Gent’s Creative Chalk Challenge and former audience development officer, Maddy Sutton undertaking a sponsored Peak trek.

On September 9, a variety evening, Sunday Night at The Witham, also raised more than £2,000 through ticket and programme sales, the raffle and the auction of a watercolour painting kindly donated by artist Chris Mouncey.

The evening was hosted by TV Antiques expert David Harper and featured performances from Star of Britain’s Got Talent Mimic Men, Cal Halbert, international dramatic coloratura soprano Penelope Randell-Davis, singer songwriter Toni Sidgwick, The Castle Players, musicians Jane Ford and Nicky Tulloch, virtuoso ventriloquist Eileen Thompson and young harpist Joshua Greenwell.

Mrs Gent, who completed her own challenge on September 8, said the whole team were overwhelmed by the response from the public.

She said: "It's been absolutely amazing. When we launched the campaign on August 7, we obviously had to be optimistic but to have achieved it and some is just brilliant.

"The public response has been hugely positive and we, as trustees and all the staff, volunteers and everyone, have pulled this off and we just want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign."

Mrs Gent said there is an on-going programme of fundraising activities to ensure the Investing in The Witham is an enduring campaign with a focus on corporate sponsorship and grant funding to ensure The Witham has a sustainable future on Barnard Castle high street.

Shelagh Avery, interim director of The Witham, said: “Our heartfelt thanks to all who have supported this campaign – from the board of trustees, the staff, volunteers and visitors, everyone has pulled together to achieve this remarkable result.

"It has been truly inspirational to be a part of this team of people working to ensure that Barnard Castle has an arts, culture and community centre long into the future."

For more information visit thewitham.org.uk or call 01833-631107 during opening hours from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.