Funding was a ‘vital lifeline’ for Babylon ARTS to ‘help keep plates spinning’ throughout lockdown

For Babylon ARTS and its team, funding has been a “vital lifeline” throughout the pandemic.

Having seen a reduced footfall compared to a normal summer, chief executive Claire Somerville says that cash boosts from Arts Council England Arts really helped in an “emergency funding situation”.

“It’s been vital to help keep the plates spinning ,” she said, “and to ensure we can run the operations here at the art gallery as well as the projects that we do in Ely, across East Cambs and further afield.

Claire said Babylon ARTS also received funding from the British Film Institute for the Ely Cinema “to cover the overheads while we’ve had to remain closed”.

Additionally, the charity received local support from the district council through the early government grants which she says “was hugely helpful at that time”.

She added that despite a reduced number of guests coming to see exhibitions over the past few months, those who do visit are more “proactively engaged in what we’re doing and more likely to make a purchase of some artwork.

“I think that’s because they know that it will be supporting an artist and us as a charity, so I feel people do understand more now that it’s a possible use it or lose it situation.”

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Being a charity, Claire said that Babylon ARTS is still applying for more funding but is in a slightly different position to other local businesses.

“We have to make sure that we’re providing public benefit as well as retail opportunities that support us as a charity.

“Most of the support we’ve had has been from a national level – big institutions that are there to support the cultural sector.

“So it would be great to feel we have the backing of the district and county council in the work that we’re doing.

Claire said she and the team have “big plans” for Babylon to “bounce back and make sure that we can keep providing great arts resources and exhibitions for the local area”.

“We know that Ely City Council would love to have the cinema re-opened at the Maltings, so we will be trying to do that as soon as we can.”

“We hope to bounce back from this next year and hope that next year we’ll be running more projects and events where we can bring people together to enjoy cultural activities.”