The Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington could be facing closure after 45 years unless urgent funding can be found.

The charity announced today (Friday, January 31) that it was facing major financial difficulties following a dramatic rise in costs and a reduction in funding in 2019.

An urgent appeal has been launched to try and raise enough money to ensure it survives.

Trustees met on Wednesday, January 29 and voted to bring in a range of measures to try and stabilise the finances, including a reduction in opening times and staff hours.

The charity said more urgent actions were planned to reduce costs further and to try and increase the funding it received.

The Plough is experiencing the highest audicnce figures in its 45 years history.

Director Richard Wolfenden Brown said: ""Despite a thriving arts and community programme, excellent customer feedback, and audiences for films and live events that have grown by 55 per cent over the last five years, The Plough has experienced a recent dramatic rise in overheads coupled with a reduction in core funding which has created the perfect storm in our delicate finances."

In September 2016 the venue successfully applied for three year funding of £150,000 from Arts Council England to support a range of capital projects including new technical equipment, redecoration, new seats, stairs and staging as well as employing fundraisers.

But it said this could not be used for the day-to-day running costs of The Plough which, in 2019, delivered a programme of 373 film screenings, 270 live events and 24 exhibitions, via 16 associated venues across North Devon.

The charity said only three per cent (£24,000) of The Plough's total income of £830,000 comes from council core grants, compared to approximately 20 er cent or more in other arts centres across the country.

Mr Wolfenden Brown added: "We have been hit by a wide range of extra costs including the need to employ a buildings manager, additional staff costs including the introduction of compulsory pension contributions and a rise in the Living Wage, increased Performing Rights Society charges, increased bank charges through customers paying with credit/debit cards, plus many other factors which have increased our costs by over £50,000 per year."

Now The Plough is appealing to town and district councils, customers, volunteers, supporters, donors, Geoffrey Cox MP, and its patrons for help and donations, either given directly to The Plough or via a crowdfunding platform that will soon be set up.

A fundraising auction will be held at The Plough on Friday, March 6 during the interval of a comedy event with Jethro (at 8.30pm).

Mr Wolfenden Brown said: "We have taken fast action internally to cut costs and to try to increase income, but it will be for others to decide if The Plough Arts Centre is to survive to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2025, or if it is to go the same way as the North Devon Theatres Trust.

"We are in a precarious situation, but we are confident that all who value our work will want to make sure that we are able to carry on as a beacon of the arts in North Devon."

If you would like to donate a high value item to the auction, or can provide help and financial support, contact Mr Wolfenden Brown via email at richard@theploughartscentre.org.uk or telephone 01805 622552