Causeway Coast and Glens Council has agreed to cut its financial contribution to the Riverside Theatre by 6.5% - a decrease of £7,500 per year.
During last Tuesday’s Leisure and Development Committee meeting, councillors were asked to review the legacy partnership arrangement with the Ulster University’s theatre.
Julie Welsh, Head of Community and Culture explained: “The current funding for the operation of the Riverside is provided via a shared arrangement with Council and supplemented by occasional grants for specific projects.”
It was revealed that from March 2001 until December 2015, Council’s contributions totalled £1,535,770.
Ms Welsh reported: “Following the demise of Arts Council funding in 2007, a ‘Cost Sharing Agreement’ was put in place between Coleraine Borough Council and the University of Ulster in 2008.
“Each party agreed liability for 50% of the actual costs incurred by the ‘joint initiative’ up to a maximum amount per year, as stated within the contract. The agreement that had been in place was valid until July 31st 2011 with the recommendation to review and extend. No further agreement was drawn up following this period, however Council continued to fund at a rate of £115,000 per year effective from August 2001 on a rolling basis.”
Councillors were asked to consider three options - to maintain the status quo; continue to support the theatre through a service contract with the University at £107,500 representing a cut of 6.5%; or ceasing support and termination of the contract with sufficient notice.
Ms Welsh told the meeting: “The Riverside Theatre has been operational from 1977 supporting both professional and community arts provision in the local area. It is the oldest professional theatre operating outside of Belfast and the only venue specifically designed to host large scale theatre activity within the borough.
“In 2015/16 the theatre accounted for over 51% of the total arts centre based activities funded by Council and therefore contributes significantly to both the infrastructure and to the cultural product on offer. The recommendation to council is to progress with option two, subject to a review after year one.”
Councillor Ian Stevenson praised the work of the Riverside and proposed that Council go for the first option and he also called for improvements in the publicity of the Riverside adding: “It’s not as good as it could be. We need to publicise it more throughout the Council area.”
Following a question from councillor William McCandless about supporting councillor Stevenson’s proposal, Ms Welsh explained that Council would be liable for an asset they do not own.
Councillor McCandless proposed to support option two as “it would lead to a closer co-operation between Council and the University and strengthen ties.”
He said:“It is unfortunate that we had to implement a reduction of 6.5% but we had to keep in line with other groups we have contributed to and to ensure we were not open to accusations of unfair treatment to other bodies. I am fully supportive of the Riverside Theatre, it provides a fantastic service to the borough.”