Mixed fortunes for The Plough but optimism for the future

We Will Be Back! The Plough Arts Centre has vowed to reopen.

We Will Be Back! The Plough Arts Centre has vowed to reopen. - Credit: Archant

The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington is striving to reopen but has been forced to lay off 15 staff.

It has been a mixed week for the venue, which has had confirmation of a £25,000 grant from Torridge District Council and the promise to consider more in the future.

Plough trustees have said following consultation in the summer they had no choice but to confirm the redundancy of 15 ‘highly valued’ staff to try and give the organisation a fair chance of survival.

There are hopes the Plough might be able to reopen in a limited way this November, but the summer has seen a busy programme of outdoor theatre, music and a host of online activities.

At the TDC community and resources committee, councillors heard ‘passionate’ video presentations from Plough chairman John Eeles and director Richard Wolfenden-Brown as well as an ‘open and honest’ account of the centre’s finances.

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Mr Wolfenden-Brown said: “The Plough Arts Centre is most definitely open for business with over 2,500 people turning up to the first live outdoor events, which restarted in August.

“I am so glad that councillors have recognised the scope of what we do, which in a normal year would see us operating at over 17 venues across Northern Devon, which is great for the arts but also the local economy.”

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In a press statement, he said he was optimistic about the future: “We can’t wait to welcome people back as soon as it is feasibly possible. “Once it is safe and financially viable to reopen our base at The Plough Arts Centre we will do so. We are aware that many arts and community groups are desperate to restart their activities at The Plough.

“We are looking at early November, subject to successfully dealing with all the known constraints and finding new ways to deliver a dynamic arts and community programme.

“This will likely mean a limited programme initially, as we all grow in confidence to rebuild the programme and embrace social distancing.”

The Plough said the summer had seen a very successful festival of socially distanced open-air theatre, with 22 performances at six North Devon venues, with several sellout shows.

There was a huge demand for the Folk with Soul open air music event at The Big Sheep on Friday, September 11 with local artists.

The charity has also resumed a programme of activities at ThePlough@StAnne’s in Barnstaple and set up a range of online arts projects, including a lockdown community photography project, a Ploughcappella singing project, an innovative dance film and many other activities, thanks to funding from Arts Council England.

It has also launched a Re-Open The Plough fighting fund.

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