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Lack of funding sees Dissfest arts group call it a day

PUBLISHED: 12:48 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:56 18 December 2018

Unit 23 projects assistant, Joshua Gould, with intern Sophie Gosman, outside Unit Twenty Three in Diss ahead of the first DissFest in 2014. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Unit 23 projects assistant, Joshua Gould, with intern Sophie Gosman, outside Unit Twenty Three in Diss ahead of the first DissFest in 2014. Picture: Sonya Duncan

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A Norfolk not-for-profit arts group has been forced to close spelling the end for projects including community festival DissFest.

Andy from Fowl Humour who performed their show Hap (Less One) at DissFest. Photo: Unit 23Andy from Fowl Humour who performed their show Hap (Less One) at DissFest. Photo: Unit 23

Unit 23, the group behind the community arts festival, as well as other youth and families arts projects, has announced it is to cease operating this week blaming a shortage of grant funding.

Based at Diss Youth & Community Centre, on Shelfanger Road, the not-for-profit social enterprise had previously secured funding from the Arts Council England for Dissfest.

The three-day festival in the town’s Mere Park had become a fixture on the summer calendar and focused on the local artists performing music, drama, comedy, art and theatre with an audience of over 5,500 and 476 performers and artists from the four festivals.

The Unit 23 Young Associate programme saw young people given the chance to get involved in the running of community arts festival DissFest. Picture: Unit 23The Unit 23 Young Associate programme saw young people given the chance to get involved in the running of community arts festival DissFest. Picture: Unit 23

The group has also toured across East Anglia with its theatre production Freefall, a show fusing parkour, movement, theatre and digital arts produced in conjunction with local young carers.

Emrys Green, the group’s founding director, said it had taken the “very hard decision” to close after finding it difficult to raise on-going funding.

He said: “Although we have been going for five years now at times it has been month to month. We have now come to the end of 18 months worth of funding from the Arts Council for our community work and unfortunately there isn’t further funding readily available.”

The DissFest young associates out and about in Diss for the launch of this year's festival. Picture: Danni DavisThe DissFest young associates out and about in Diss for the launch of this year's festival. Picture: Danni Davis

The group had unsuccessfully applied for funding from Suffolk Community Foundation and Diss Town Council, though Mr Green insists the town council had been supportive over the years.

He added: “It’s a huge shame but it is just boiling it down to the economics of being able to deliver things. We never spent huge amounts of money and we did lots of things on not a lot, but it just gets to a point where you have to say in everyone’s best interests unfortunately we have to stop trying to chase the tail of funding.

“If we were in Bury St Edmunds or Norwich it would be possible because you get the numbers, but that was the whole point in Diss to give the opportunity that isn’t always there.”

Henry Raby running a story telling workshop that was one of the projects run in Diss by not-for-profit arts group Unit 23. Photo: Unit 23Henry Raby running a story telling workshop that was one of the projects run in Diss by not-for-profit arts group Unit 23. Photo: Unit 23

The group, which had a staff of three, hopes that some of its work will be able to continue “in various guises”. Mr Green said: “One project we have instrumentally supported is the Arts Award Youth Network and development of an online platform for young people interested in culture. The charity behind this will be the beneficiaries of any remaining assets so we can offer some further support for its growth.”

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