Arts Council reviews the finances of Wigan's Old Courts amid its cash crisis

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The Arts Council of England is looking through the finances of the trouble-hit Old Courts in Wigan before it commits to giving it more money.

As Wigan Today reported last week the organisation which has been behind so many town arts projects in recent years has been forced to make redundancies and shelve projects after structural damage was caused to two of its venues by restoration work, resulting in their temporary closure and a subsequent big loss of revenue.

In circumstances like this, the Arts Council is obliged to step in and examine an organisation’s finances to ensure everything is still being handled properly and, if necessary, point out any errors or offer ideas of how things could be handled differently.

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The Old Courts on Crawford StreetThe Old Courts on Crawford Street
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Until it publishes its report – due any day now, says The Old Courts – it won’t make further instalments of the £1.05m announced last year.

But the Arts Council stresses that, contrary to a recent report on a news website, it is not “investigating” the Old Courts nor has it suspended payments.

The next is due at the end of this month, by which time the Old Courts – operated by community interest company Arts at the Mill – hope the review will have reached a satisfactory conclusion.

An Arts Council spokesperson said: “Arts at the Mill have made us aware of financial challenges. We are in dialogue with them to understand the current position and we have begun a review into the situation.

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"As an Arts Council national portfolio organisation, Arts at the Mill have signed a funding agreement with us which contains specific conditions around governance, management and finances.

"We have robust procedures in place to assess applications for funding and to monitor the use of public money by the organisations we fund.

"Although our funding agreement with Arts at the Mill has not been suspended, as a responsible distributor of public funding no further payments will be released until a review has been completed.”

Rebecca Davenport, director of sales and marketing at The Old Courts, said: "We have been open and transparent with our funders about our financial situation including sharing fund deposits and projections. We are currently working with an independent consultant, who have been commissioned by Arts Council to review, support and validate our financial plans between now and March 2026.

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“Since we became a National Portfolio Organisation, we have submitted the correct quarterly reports and to date each funding instalment has been released on schedule. The next report and the review is due in October.

“Our claims for public funds are independently audited and submitted to funders. We have had a strong track record of using public money correctly and have continued to do so throughout the current situation with the building damage.”

The Old Courts are trying to bring The Grand Vault and Theatre back into use as soon as possible, putting up their own money because an insurance claim against the contractors is dragging on

Ms Davenport added: “While two of our key spaces are closed, the rest of our extensive, beautiful building remains open, and we are holding a wealth of different events.

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"We’re regularly welcoming happy guests to weddings, private parties and more, all of which have been really well received.

"We’ve had some incredible feedback sent to us after events recently, which has been the boost our incredible team has needed during an otherwise difficult time.

"We feel it’s so important to have a dedicated space for all forms of arts and culture here in Wigan because the demand is there, the borough is home to a huge, increasing number of talented creatives and (aside from recent bad luck) things are going really well!.”

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