Salford Council won't tell the Salford Star how much it's spending on a prestige show at The Lowry for next year's Manchester International Festival (MIF). But as a guide, the Carlos Acosta ballet staged at The Lowry for the last Manc Festival cost Salford council tax payers £110,000 (see here).
For 2011, the Council is co-commissioning a performance called The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at The Lowry, which MIF's Director told us is to be "one of the biggest shows for the 2011 event". Will there be much change out of £100,000 for this one? We very much doubt it.
Meanwhile, over in the less prestigious setting of Eccles shopping centre, in a shop that would otherwise be empty, Eccles Community Art Gallery has been open for almost two years, run on a peanuts budget, to allow local artists an exhibition space.
Well over fifty local artists have exhibited here and they can sell their work, for which gallery owner, Karen Illingworth, takes no commission. She charges artists a small amount of money to cover the cost of hanging their work but even then, if they can't afford it, she waives the fee…
…Unlike Salford Council which has hit the gallery for business rates to the tune of almost £9000 backdated to November 2008 which it will not rescind. Karen applied for a `discretionary business rates' exemption which was promptly turned down and now there is a real possibility that the community art gallery might shut.
Meanwhile, Salford Council is pushing ahead with its multi-thousand pound prestige arts extravaganza at The Lowry for Manchester's Arts Festival…
"If Salford Council wants to invest in that, it's fair enough but it must support the arts on its own doorstep" says Karen "We've worked really hard for 18 months to pull groups into the shop to see our exhibitions and we've helped bring people into Eccles shopping centre.
"We're trying to support local artists, and have run an art competition to portray Eccles in a positive light called Painting The Town, which was supported by famous artist Geoffrey Key" she adds "We're trying to harness all this creative energy but Salford Council is making it impossible."
Salford Council, however, will not be moved on the issue
"On this occasion the application for discretionary business rates relief was rejected by the council" says Councillor Bill Hinds, Salford City Council lead member for customer and support services "Officers have been working with Ms Illingworth and have offered advice on other options that are still available to her".
One of those brilliant options was to register as a charity for which the gallery is not eligible – because it would need a minimum income of £5000, which it hasn't got. The other option is to close down.
We do hope Salford's councillors enjoy their night watching The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at The Lowry next year…
Meanwhile the community of Eccles will no doubt be watching The Creative Life and Death of Eccles Town Centre…
See Part 2 - Salford Council and Manchester Festival Fun - click here
Photo shows Winton artist Joe Coffey (see here), dubbed The New Lowry, with his first exhibition at Eccles Community Art Gallery.