The Demise of Shakespeare Country

Birmingham Post Article (UK regional newspaper)

SOUTH Warwickshire Tourism (SWT)—which operates under the brand name of Shakespeare Country—is facing the possibility of having its £275,000-a-year grant from Stratford District Council removed at the end of this month.

The Warwick-based organisation, which promotes South Warwickshire as a tourist destination to the rest of the world, receives hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in grants from both Stratford and Warwick district councils.

The Herald understands that the ruling Conservatives on Stratford District Council are seriously considering pulling the plug on SWT next week by refusing to renew the grant when the current agreement expires on 31st March.

Funding for SWT is on the agenda for discussion “in confidential” at this Monday’s meeting of the ruling cabinet of Stratford District Council. It is stated on the agenda that a report on the subject is not immediately available because of meetings that are taking place between Monday and Friday of this week.

Asked by the Herald on Tuesday to comment on the possibility that SWT’s funding from Stratford District Council was under threat because of cutbacks in local government spend-ing, SWT’s chief executive, Phil Hackett, said: “Shakespeare Country’s funding for the 2010-11 financial year from Stratford District Council was agreed and approved back in February 2009 at a Stratford-District Council committee meeting. ”

London Wired (world wide web)

SOUTH Warwickshire Tourism (SWT)—the visitor promotion company also known as Shakespeare Country—dramatically ceased trading last night (Wednesday) after Stratford District Council withdrew its funding of the organisation.

The first tangible effect was the shutting down yesterday of Stratford-upon-Avon Tourist Information Centre (TIC) and the stripping of its contents—a situation described as “a body blow” to the town two days ahead of the Easter holidays.

Last night, as liquidators arrived to go over the company’s books, SWT chairman Sally Carrick told the Herald she thought the district council had been “extremely short-sighted and muddled in its thinking”.

She said: “I’m disappointed that the council appears not to be aware of the importance of tourism to the area for economic growth. Half of the retail businesses, if not more, depend on tourism and if that’s not being marketed, what then?”

The axe finally fell on SWT at 4pm yesterday after nearly three days of intense activity aimed at trying to save the company from the chop.

But the board of SWT knew that the writing was on the wall the moment it learnt on Monday that the district council’s ruling cabinet had decided to “defer” a decision on whether to continue funding the company until councillors had seen a viable recovery plan.

As of midnight last night the council’s funding agreement with SWT expired and so did its provision of £275,000 a year to the company. Apart from the closure of the TIC in Stratford 20 people have also lost their jobs, including SWT’s chief executive Phil Hackett.

Mrs Carrick told the Herald that the district council’s contribution represented about 20 per cent of SWT’s income. Even though it was still receiving a similar sum from Warwick District Council—whose agreement still has another year to run—it would have been illegal for the company to continue trading without the Stratford cash.

About X-Wide P

Award winning advocate for the arts, heritage & culture; Fine Artist & Curator at StudionAme; Resources Manager for Leicester Arts, Museums, Festivals & Events; Founder & Curator of L.O.V.E. Art the Leicester Open Exhibition
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