RUMOURS: The Drum in Birmingham
D-DAY is beckoning for The Drum, which has been the UK’s premier black-led arts centre for more than two decades, as trustees meet to consider its future.
Rumours have been growing for some time about the troubled Birmingham centre that launched a fund raising campaign two years ago to expand its auditorium as part of a £4.8 million plan to ‘future proof’ the venue for generations to come.
But this was not successful, as staff received news at Christmas that funding for 2016/17 will be reduced. Its primary funders are Birmingham City Council and the Arts Council which currently funds The Drum as a National Portfolio Organisation receiving regular funding of £592,961 per year.
Now the board of trustees will meet on Tuesday evening (March 29) to discuss the Drum’s future, which is also known as the Newtown Cultural Project Ltd (NCP).
Chairperson Sharon Palmer told The Voice: “I regret I am unable to make a statement until the board of NCP Ltd meets on 29th March. I understand the rumours about The Drum’s future.
“I can however, confirm that the primary funders of NCP Ltd have and are reviewing their funding for 2016/17. I can confirm that a review has been undertaken by Arts Council England that highlights many areas of concern. The board and staff recognise things have to change.”
Charles Small, The Drum CEO, who spearheaded the £4.8 plan for a new auditorium, which was known as Raising the Roof, said it was not appropriate to comment before the trustees’ meeting.
Mukhtar Dar, former director of arts and marketing at The Drum for 17 years until he left last September, said: “If what I am hearing about The Drum’s imminent closure is true, then this is indeed a sad loss especially for the communities of north Birmingham as a whole, and also nationally.
“My immediate thoughts are with my ex-colleagues, who will be losing their jobs and their livelihoods. Many of them have worked extremely hard and were dedicated to ensuring The Drum remained rooted in our local communities.
“I hope that in all the furore, there is some recognition of the positive achievements and contributions made by The Drum over the years. I also hope that its legacy continues with some kind of arts and cultural provision in north Birmingham.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “While the trustees of The Drum are considering whether it can continue as a viable organisation and are considering their options, Birmingham City Council and Arts Council England remain committed to continuing to support cultural activity in Newtown and the wider Aston area, and for black and minority ethnic audiences.
“As events at The Drum have happened rapidly, we are still in discussion about this.”
NO COMMENT: The Drum's CEO Charles Small
Peter Knott, area director for Arts Council England, said: “We understand that The Drum is considering its future following a health check report into the organisation. “The trustees will discuss the next steps for the organisation when they meet again on Tuesday.
“We remain committed to ensuring that Aston’s communities continue to have access to great arts and culture whatever the outcome of the trustees’ meeting. We will continue to work with our key partner Birmingham City Council to maintain investment in the area.”
According to audience figures released last July, The Drum has been reaching more than 40,000 people each year. It has seen a 10 percent growth year-on-year for five years, particularly from Rwandan, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, Polish and Pakistani communities which are typically under-represented in the demographic of arts attendees in the West Midlands.