THE FUTURE OF BIRNAM ARTS - Notes from Public Meeting - Birnam Arts
Shopping Cart

Birnam Arts and Conference Centre

01350 727 674

icon MENU

THE FUTURE OF BIRNAM ARTS – Notes from Public Meeting

On 22nd July some 120 local residents attended a public meeting on the future of a great local institution, Birnam Arts.  John Anderson, Chair of the Trustees, explained how the organisation has struggled in recent years and is now in very difficult financial straits.  Grants from the Council and Creative Scotland have remained static for over a decade, while wages, performers’ fees, utilities and other running costs have all risen steeply.  At the same time Birnam Arts’ cafe has lost custom to improved local outlets, and although conference business and footfall at the Beatrix Potter Exhibition have held up, the combined impact of  these factors has led to five figure losses for three years running, depleting reserves to dangerously low levels.  In short, the continued viability of Birnam Arts can no longer be taken for granted.

A presentation on the extensive community consultation which ran from January to April followed, analysing feedback from over 300 questionnaire returns.  Responses on the cafe were telling: The menu is viewed as a little tired, the decor bland, and the service inconsistent – all issues the organisation is working to address.  The consensus on price rises for room hire was that proposed increases were reasonable, and the introduction of a £1 booking fee to offset card transaction charges understandable.  Phasing out the loss making “Friends” scheme was similarly understood, with replacement schemes to be announced later this year.  All feedback from the consultation made clear that Birnam Arts – “The Institute” – is highly valued and much loved in the community, with the outstanding arts programme a particular source of local pride, encompassing high profile, internationally recognised acts to popular classes and workshops for all ages and abilities.

Many questions and comments from the floor underlined this, with several emphasising the crucial role the Institute plays in local well-being, as well as its economic importance in attracting tourism, providing jobs, and adding value to house prices.

Birnam Arts’ manager James Irvine outlined a major funding proposal the organisation is planning to submit to Griffin & Calliachar Community Fund, copies of which circulated in the hall.  The £180,000 submission includes capital investment to replace lighting, theatre equipment, signage, aging furniture and various structural repairs all designed to reduce running costs and increase trade.  Revenue funding for a marketing development project is aimed at boosting profile, attendances, and quality of online & printed media.  This application will be the vital first phase of a strategy to restore the organisation to good health in time for its 140th anniversary in 2023.

Many present expressed shock and concern at the problems facing the Institute, while contributing constructive suggestions and ideas, as well as practical offers of help and commitments to volunteer, which were welcomed by all at Birnam Arts.  Finally the outline strategy working towards the 140th anniversary was endorsed, and as had been pledged at the AGM in January, the organisation restated its commitment to maintain communication with the community.

What's On

fb twitter p trip