FACED with the immediate need to restore the theatre roof, Bridgwater Arts Centre is calling for urgent financial help to see it through a challenging period.

Artistic Director and CEO, Adam Clarke, has approached a number of funding bodies and says he has received universal support for his future vision for Britain’s first Arts Centre.

The Arts Centre board says the prospect of securing significant future funding is extremely positive, but emphasises that in the meantime, of utmost concern is how the Arts Centre can get through the next few months, while the theatre is temporarily closed for six months.

Bridgwater Town Council has offered a number of ways that it may be prepared to play a major role.

The new Town Clerk, David Mears, has been asked to work with the Arts Centre to strengthen its governance as a first step.

Sedgemoor District Council has also been asked to carry out an immediate conditions survey of the Grade 1 listed building in Castle Street to report on the state of the building and prioritise works that need to be carried out.

The Arts Centre Board’s latest recruit, the town’s deputy mayor Cllr Tony Heywood, said: “The Arts Centre is entirely responsible for the upkeep of the building.

"The main roof is also in a terrible state, which has resulted in rotten timbers and made the top floor completely damp and unusable. The long-term aim is to bring currently derelict spaces back into use as workshops for a wide range of artistic purposes and to provide a regular source of income for the Arts Centre.

"This includes provision of disabled access to the first and second floors. The main toilets next to the theatre are primitive and require total modernisation. The Arts Centre frequently receives complaints about the state of the toilets from visitors, which reflects extremely badly on the centre and on the town.”

The Arts Centre is also calling for donations from private individuals and from local businesses who might be looking for opportunities under their 'Corporate Social Responsibility' schemes, whereby they donate materials and services to local charities. It is also looking for individuals to volunteer their time on a regular basis.

Adam Clarke wanted to reassure the public that the Arts Centre will remain open for bookings, room hire and partnership working.

Adam adds: “The Arts Centre is always looking for new user groups and new classes to host and, from early 2019, there will also be new letting opportunities”.

“We have already received an extremely generous donation of £1,000 from one anonymous donor. I would like to express my sincere thanks to them and hope that others might follow their lead,” said Luke Fothergill, chairman of the Arts Centre Board.

Bridgwater Town Council leader, Cllr Brian Smedley, said: ""Bridgwater Town Council is now the principle backer of the Arts Centre.

"During this term of office we have increased our funding substantially as it is the first arts centre in the country, we're proud to have it in our town and it continues to be an important part of our culture and our heritage.

"The Arts Centre has had a difficult year with staff changes and now substantial repairs required, so we have naturally offered our help. This could be with regard to governance, shared facilities and further funding - but this is conditional on a review of the Art Centre finances, which we expect to be complete before the budget set at the end of January. "