Brighton’s contemporary art gallery Fabrica are to launch a crowdfunding appeal next week to rescue its finances in light of recent funding cuts which threaten the organisation’s future. Fabrica’s appeal offers donors a range of rewards in return for their support, including original artwork by artists it has presented, and the opportunity to host a private screening in its 200-year-old Regency building in the Lanes.
Until last year Fabrica received a £20,000 regular grant from Brighton & Hove City Council but following local funding cuts, the charity was told in January 2017 that a bid to renew the grant under the Council’s new commissioning model had been unsuccessful. Despite cost reduction measures implemented over the last year, Fabrica is facing a gap in its finances that it is trying to fill by the end of March 2018.
Fabrica has been at the heart of the community in the city for 22 years, having been initiated in 1996 by four artists, including Liz Whitehead the present Director, from local studio group, Red Herring. Alongside the three major contemporary installations it presents each year (past exhibitions have included Anish Kapoor, Martin Parr, Brian Eno and Janet Cardiff), Fabrica delivers a range of community outreach activities that reach some of the city’s most vulnerable people.
Liz Whitehead, Director, explains: “In previous years, a £20,000 gap would not have been such a big deal. But like many other arts organisations we’ve really felt the impact of austerity on our fundraising over the past year – it’s become so much more competitive and fewer of our bids have been successful. We’ve cut our staffing bill but due to associated redundancy costs the full impact of this won’t be felt until April 2018. Although we’re raising much more profit from commercial activities like venue hire than ever before, we haven’t been able to raise enough income to make up for the loss of our Council grant. Our reserves simply can’t take a £20,000 hit this financial year so if our appeal is unsuccessful, we will be forced to cut our programmes and we might lose some of the activities that people can access for free or at low cost. This really saddens me because Fabrica is all about reducing barriers to contemporary art – and if you’re on a low income, cost is a major barrier.”
The arts charity set up Brighton’s Men’s Shed in 2017 as part of the city’s suicide prevention framework and regularly hosts Chomp, a free lunch and arts club for low-income families. It provides opportunities for 200 volunteers every year, over 20% of whom have a disability.
Fabrica receives regular funding from Arts Council England as part of ACE’s National Portfolio, but this covers less than half of the organisation’s expenditure. Arts Council England funding has been awarded at a standstill level since 2012 so in effect arts organisations are facing substantial year-on-year cuts. Combined with the loss of the Brighton grant, this has put the charity’s future in an uncertain position.
As Liz Whitehead says: “Because of our depleted reserves, our Board may decide that it is too risky to keep the organisation afloat if we end the year with a deficit. This would be a massive loss and we’re determined not to let this happen.”
The charity will be hosting a sponsored Draw-A-Thon & Writers’ Relay fundraiser in the gallery on 24 February, hosted by artist Jane Fordham and author Jackie Wills. The event will see up to 30 local writers take turns to write live – while audiences watch as their writing is projected on a big screen – and teams of local artists drawing continuously for five hours. They will be accompanied by local musicians throughout the day. Members of the public can drop in any time between 11am and 4pm to watch, draw along, and buy tea and cake.
“The sponsored event will be a great way to mobilise Brighton’s artistic community in raising funds for Fabrica, which has supported local artists for many years”, Jane Fordham says.