Campaigners stage new protest against closure of Portsmouth community arts centre

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Mutiny Festival brought over �2m to the local economy Picture: Paul Windsor

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PROTESTERS today made a fresh stand against the planned closure of a community arts centre in Portsmouth.

Campaigners staged a rally in Guildhall Square in a bid to convince council bosses that the Arts Lodge Centre, in Victoria Park, must stay.

Portsmouth City Council last month told Art and Soul Traders, which runs a community café and arts centre for aspiring artists from the centre, that it has eight months to leave and find a new home.

The authority owns the premises and wants to use it instead as a new cafe to help get vulnerable adults back into work.

But critics say the Arts Lodge is a vital meeting place for the city’s arts and cultural community and gives people the chance to showcase their skills and work.

The protest comes ahead of this afternoon’s meeting of the full council, where Lib Dem councillors will present a notice of motion calling on the Tory administration, and the rest of the council, to back the Arts Lodge and reverse the closure.

The motion, to be put forward by councillors Steve Pitt and Darren Sanders, says: ‘This council recognises the valuable contribution made by Art & Soul Traders to the cultural and community life of our city and also their restoration of The Lodge in Victoria Park.

‘After a robust and ultimately successful dialogue in 2012, a new agreement was reached between this council and the operators, to secure their future, which has resulted in both increased income for the Council and extra flexibility for the operators, who have continued to thrive.

‘The council therefore supports, in principle, the continuation of the lease for Art & Soul Traders as tenants of The Lodge and asks the Cabinet Member for PRED to ensure that happens.’

Arts Lodge supporters came waving ‘community not corporation’ and ‘our cities need art’ placards and took to the Guildhall steps to chant ‘Save our Lodge.’

Arts Lodge owner Mark Lewis said: ‘Our message to the councillors is, the people have spoken, please listen. Otherwise the wrath of the people could lose them their jobs.’

Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt said: ‘The council is saying, it wants to improve access, and use of the park - if only it would interact with the Lodge then it would know the access and interaction in the park is down to the Lodge.’