I APPLAUD Deborah Fox’s impassioned plea in support of Salisbury Festival and acknowledge that it is beholden on all of us to rise to the challenge she has set us.

I truly believe that the merger of the three organisations is potentially the most exciting opportunity for arts provision in the city. We now need everyone who is interested in the arts to step up and ensure that the very real promise is fulfilled. The postponement of the festival is not a good example of what we should accept from this merger. Let’s contact the arts organisations and ask “What are you doing to ensure the festival survives? And how are you going to ensure that we enjoy greater opportunities from now on?”

I do however think she may be wrong to attach the blame to the Arts Council. Whilst it is true that the three arts organisations in Salisbury are planning to merge and the Arts Council is supporting them to achieve this, I believe that the overriding issue is that the festival’s major sponsor Ageas is terminating its support – and I thank them for their commitment to our arts scene over several years. The festival needs to secure another sponsor.

But what can we do to address the loss of the festival next year? On several occasions over the years I have had discussions about the idea of a Salisbury Fringe to run alongside the main festival – as an inspirational showcase for local talent. Why not next year? We need to set two weeks in the calendar and then ask all stakeholders to offer what they can to highlight the arts in Salisbury.

Richard Clewer has been appointed as a Member of Wiltshire Cabinet and has taken on the arts portfolio. It would be great to see Richard and the council being pro-active. The council removed its grant from the Arts Centre, but has preserved funding for the Playhouse and The Festival. How can we help them formulate their plans for next year? How could any grant they may have considered for the festival be used? How can we support them to use their influence to greatest effect?

Colin Holton must be thanked by everyone for the great success of Salisbury Live. What a day we had in the Market Square last week with live music for many hours. He is committed to ensuring this continues next year even in the absence of the festival.

Salisbury artists run an open studio art trail, what about setting the timing to coincide with the festival fringe? They also hold a number of exhibitions, so why not hold those at the same time? Could we add interest by setting challenges and offering prizes? There was a truly wonderful schools art exhibition at The Library in the spring. This challenged pupils from local schools, whose response was truly inspirational.

The City Hall, Arts Centre and Playhouse have access to agents/managers for touring companies and artists when planning their programme. Let’s challenge them to cooperate by programming highlights during the fortnight.

Studio Theatre runs a vibrant programme – what could they do? There are professional musicians, dancers, writers in Salisbury who run projects – could they work towards projects for next year? A showcase of community projects would offer an inspirational focus and could set an example for best practice in the transfer of skills across the community.

There is also a strong group of Salisbury alumni – many artists who had/have Salisbury connections. A few weeks ago Kate Nash appeared at The Arts Centre, made possible as a result of a young music graduate from the college. Can we use these connections and ask what introductions they could make for us to get support from international artists?

Whilst we cannot expect to match the international status that the festival has built up, we can go back to our roots and ensure there is an inspirational showcase for next year out of which the International Festival can be relaunched. Art can be double edged – it inspires by introducing communities to world class talent, but also showcases the community’s talents in response.

People who are interested in supporting such an initiative need to make themselves known. I would be happy to be join like minded people to help this happen. As for funding, many of the initiatives I have suggested would probably happen in any case, the important thing is to get all parties to work towards the same weeks in the calendar. We will need funding, but could run a crowd-funding exercise to get this started and then seek additional grants.

PETER WILLIAMS, Fordingbridge

  • WE have just come to the end of another brilliant Salisbury International Arts Festival.

So that’s it, is it? No more circus? No more fantastic singing projects to join in with? No more outdoor Shakespeare in eclectic places? No more street theatre and quirky acts covering the May Bank Holiday? No more projects in schools?

What a dry old crusty city we are going to be.

How can this have happened to a festival in its 45th year which has been raised from just being Salisbury Festival to the International Arts Festival we have now. Helen Marriage must be in mourning as she and others spent years tirelessly building it to this status Of course the official line is that it will be back in 2019. Nobody believes that, especially when the staff are being made redundant and the offices closed. If anything does happen it will just be to tick a box and get funding.

I as an audience member, participant and volunteer for many years feel cheated and upset that this can be taken away from us . This festival belongs to the people of Salisbury and we must save it.

I’m with Deborah Fox. I urge anyone who has been touched by the Festival in any way this year or in previous years to express your feelings to the Journal, Festival, John Glen, Matt Dean, Arts Council and the Playhouse directors. Use social media and any other means to get the message across.