Campaigners march through Portsmouth to save community arts cafe

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CAMPAIGNERS have taken a fresh stand against the decision to close a community arts cafe in Portsmouth.

Supporters of the Arts Lodge and Park Cafe marched through Victoria Park and around Guildhall Square today waving placards in Victorian costume to raise awareness of the cultural venue.

The Lodge was handed an eight month notice to leave in June as the Tory council administration wants to turn the building into a hub helping adults with disabilities get back into work.

But critics say current Lodge operator Mark Lewis is already doing positive work for the community, and should stay.

And they’re angry the council had originally agreed at a previous debate to support the ‘principal’ of saving the Lodge - only for Tory leader Donna Jones to then decide the original plans to terminate Mr Lewis’ lease should remain in place.

The rally comes ahead of a full council debate this afternoon where Mr Lewis will present a petition calling for the council to rethink its stance.

Mr Lewis said: ‘We’ve dressed up like this because the full council meetings are a farce, theatrical and dramatic, where no real democracy takes place. But this is also about representing the hardships of Victorian times, and how the gap between the rich and poor is even greater now.

‘We are asking Cllr Jones to keep us here until the end of our lease, which does not run out for another five years.’

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