A blow for cultural life

ELY S only publicly-funded art gallery has been forced to close its doors, dealing yet another blow to the cultural life of the fast-growing city of Ely. Despite healthy visitor figures and a programme of cutting edge art exhibitions, the Babylon Galler

ELY'S only publicly-funded art gallery has been forced to close its doors, dealing yet another blow to the cultural life of the fast-growing city of Ely.

Despite healthy visitor figures and a programme of cutting edge art exhibitions, the Babylon Gallery on Riverside, run by arts development agency ADeC, had its future decided for it when the Tory-run council slashed £70,000 off the budget - more than 40 per cent of their total grant. Two members of staff lost their jobs and the pared-down team have been struggling to find funds to organise events capable of appealing to Ely's 16,000 strong, and ever expanding population.

The gallery has only been open eight years. While Cambridge and surrounding towns boast at least one premier public art gallery, Ely was slower to accept the need for a cultural focus.

"It's absolutely crazy," said arts enthusiast Ted Coney, who has joined the Ely Standard's call for improved local arts provision. "We moved to Ely for the gallery and before that we used to come to Ely all the time from Great Shelford, we'd spend money at a tea room or something afterwards, go to the antique shop. As far as I'm concerned forcing the Babylon Gallery to close is one of the most short-sighted things the council has done and the people of Ely will only realise once it's gone, sadly."


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With The Maltings closed since the beginning of May for essential roof repairs, the council have left Ely without a central arts centre or meeting place for six months, and the riverside, an area popular with tourists, with no cultural attraction.

Although ADeC has submitted a bid to run The Maltings as a commercial arts centre when it reopens in the autumn, the Ely Standard understands that the appointment of a catering and restaurant company to run Ely's only large scale community building is imminent.

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Councillors moved to reassure the public earlier this year that Ely Cinema - previously run by AdeC from The Maltings - would be saved.

The team at ADeC issued the following statement:

"ADeC say a sad farewell to the Babylon Gallery which, due to funding cuts will close its doors on Sunday, at the end of its current exhibition Adam Bridgland: Every Town Can Be Full Of Interest If You Train Yourself To Find It.

From Matisse to local group Ouse Life over 130,000 visitors have enjoyed our many and varied exhibitions since we opened back in 2000 - a great achievement thanks to the many people who have been involved with the gallery over the years. We have had many messages in our visitors' book from the public who are sad we are closing. "We'd like to thank all the artists who have exhibited over the years and the local public as well as all our regional and even international visitors who have made the Gallery so successful since we opened."

ADeC will continue to operate its office along with its box office at the Babylon Bridge site, the gallery space will be used for occasional film, art and music events while The Maltings is closed and is also available for hire. Events will continue to be listed on their website at www.adec.org.uk. A summer highlight promises to be night time outdoor screenings in the walled garden of Peacocks Tearoom.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Would you like to see The Maltings become a community arts centre? Do you have to travel to Cambridge for entertainment and leisure? Would you like to see an art gallery reborn?

Write to: The Ely Standard (Keep It Local campaign. 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS. Email: editor@ely-standard.co.uk

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