A petition has launched to save a community arts venue and café in Portsmouth.
The Art and Soul Traders is a Community Interest Company and member of Co-operatives UK. It runs the Arts Lodge in the old gatekeeper’s lodge on the corner of Victoria Park in Portsmouth city centre.
The not-for-profit enterprise aims to help members of the community get involved in arts projects, as well as being a place for local people to get together and take part in arts groups.
Now, the enterprise has been informed that Portsmouth City Council is to terminate the lease.
The Arts Lodge say that the council wish to turn the space into a day centre for elderly people and are campaigning against the decision. They argue that the space is a vital community hub and a rare place in the city where young and old can meet. Additionally, there is already a nearby day centre (the John Pounds Centre) for elderly people.
Alison Brett, who recently took over the management of the park café, said: “You couldn’t believe the amount of extremely hard work that has been dedicated to this building and its services to the community. Over 200 people have clocked up over 110,000 voluntary hours, winning the best restoration award from the Portsmouth society, reaching over 50,000 people, creating over £2m for the city from less than £200,000 of public funding. This is incredible stuff and should be applauded by the local authority not destroyed”.
We have to look at innovative ways to help adults who need extra support, while also providing opportunities so they can thrive and grow
However, Portsmouth City Council has denied that the plan is to turn the space into a day centre. Rather, the cafe will remain open, run by adults with learning disabilities. Jo Bennett, Portsmouth City Council’s commercial property and leasehold services manager said: “We’re looking at providing employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities and as The Lodge approaches a contract break, where either party could serve notice, we’re proposing that the venue could be a café run by our specialist adult day care services.
“We understand this is disappointing news, so we have given Art and Soul Traders eight months’ notice to allow plenty of time to find alternative premises.
“We have to look at innovative ways to help adults who need extra support, while also providing opportunities so they can thrive and grow.”
The Art and Soul Traders was founded in 1998 by Mark Lewis, a muralist. The enterprise offers services including community murals, exhibitions, recording studio, venue hire, workshops, courses and evening events.
The Arts Lodge has been in its current location for 13 years after restoring and moving into the gatekeeper’s lodge in 2001-2002.
A petition to Save the Lodge has gained over 4,500 signatures, and more details of the campaign can be found here.