HOW lucky we are in Salisbury to have the [International Arts] Festival, the Arts Centre and the Playhouse. The reason we are lucky is because these three organisations offer completely different arts experiences to the public and each earned core funding from Arts Council England in recognition of their individuality and value to the city, county and beyond. Three different constitutions and three different philosophies.

What the Arts Council is now saying is that all three organisations must amalgamate to secure funding for four years to 2022. The voting membership of the Arts Centre was asked to approve the continuing discussion with the other parties and their approval released £50,000 from the Arts Council to complete “Due Diligence”.

It would be more constructive to commission a feasibility study to investigate if this plan has any credibility and how it would work and to discover alternative options. At the moment the Arts Council has a pistol to the head of the arts in Salisbury and with that pistol they are going to change the arts in Salisbury forever. And there is a strong possibility that after 2022 the Arts Centre and the festival will disappear altogether having been swallowed up by the Playhouse.

To be clear, amalgamation means that the Arts Centre and festival will be under the “auspices” of the Playhouse, whose speciality is theatre. I would like to hear how this new organisation will work and how the many varied activities, art forms, film, performance, residences, visual arts, craft, exhibitions, participation and outreach will be managed.

It would be really helpful if the holders of that pistol, Arts Council England, would come to Salisbury and hold an open public meeting with the managements of all the organisations and interested parties to answer these questions that are not being answered at the moment, preferably before the final decisions are made. The people of Salisbury care very much about their arts organisations but unfortunately I don’t think they realise how near we are to losing them.

Mary Stephens