Edmonton arts centre set to be leased out by council to save money

Millfield Arts Centre in Silver Street is said to be losing the council nearly £600k every year, reports James Cracknell

Millfield Arts Centre includes both the house and theatre
Millfield Arts Centre includes both the house and theatre

An arts centre in Edmonton looks set to be leased out to an external provider by Enfield Council as the authority’s financial difficulties deepen.

Millfield Arts Centre, which includes Millfield House, Millfield House Library and Millfield Theatre in Silver Street, is currently losing the council nearly £597,000 per year – with a total budget pressure of £39m for 2024/25 forcing the civic centre to look at a range of savings.

A report drawn up by the council explains the options available for Millfield and includes a potential sale of the freehold, for between £3.5million and £4.5m, but this has been ruled out because of the risk of losing it as a cultural and community asset.

In a statement, the council has said it “will not dispose of the site” and that it will be “retained for cultural use”. The option being taken forward instead is a “full repair and insurance lease of the property on the open market requiring a cultural/community use and library”.

The Dispatch first reported that a lease of Millfield Arts Centre was being considered by the council in March 2021.

A council spokesperson said: “Millfield Arts Centre is a much-loved asset in Edmonton. We have looked carefully at how we can retain the Millfield Arts Centre as a community asset for cultural use while also acting responsibly given the financial constraints on the council.

“Following deliberation, and as a result of the continued pressure on the council’s budgets, we have concluded that the most prudent course of action is to look at a leasing arrangement of the centre.

“We will not dispose of the site and it will be retained for cultural use, as we recognise its connection to local people, performers and community groups. The library will also be maintained and the park will remain open to the public.

“All bidders for the lease must be able to demonstrate that they have experience in delivering beneficial cultural/community focused services. By removing the budget pressure by leasing the Millfield complex, while retaining use of the property by the community, we will be able to support investment in other essential council services over the long term.”

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Edward Smith, the opposition Conservative group’s spokesperson for arts and culture, said he was not opposed to the decision but fears what else might be being considered at the civic centre to save money. He told the Dispatch: “This isn’t a cut, it is putting Millfeld on a firm financial footing, but if the financial situation deteriorates and other things are considered we will look at it closely.

“They are going to have to hack back on the capital programme and that will become clear soon – it will be embarrassing to the council because they had lots of ambitions.”

A frontrunner for the Millfield lease is Platinum Performing Arts (PPA), which is already based at Millfield House and runs many of the arts and culture programmes hosted at Millfield Theatre.

Paul Everitt, the council’s former head of arts and culture who now works with local networking organisation Love Your Doorstep, was based at Millfield for many years. Paul says PPA is a likely winner of the lease and told the Dispatch: “I don’t have an issue with them being in charge of it, if it provides opportunities for young people it could be a positive thing, as long as it doesn’t exclude other groups and there is assurance it is a venue for other aspiring artists.”

In a statement, PPA described Millfield as “the heartbeat of Edmonton” and said it would “continue supporting local community groups”. It added: “Millfield has been the home to Platinum Performing Arts for over 15 years. Our mission is to use the arts to heal the community, delivering successful outreach programmes, creating a safe space for young people to thrive and creating opportunities for residents of Edmonton and Enfield borough.

“During Covid the council was carrying out a restructure and Platinum was appointed by the council to take responsibility and management of the Millfield complex to keep the doors open during a time when arts and culture were at risk.

“Platinum is proud to have continued the legacy of the theatre by offering a diverse range of world-class entertainment and expanding performance opportunities for the local community […] Platinum Academy of Performing Arts opened its doors as a full-time performing arts college in September 2020 and is proudly supported by local Enfield MPs and councillors.”

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