Classes for adults with learning disabilities to stop at The Mill

Banbury. The Mill Arts Centre. NNL-160305-155535009
Banbury. The Mill Arts Centre. NNL-160305-155535009

Users of The Mill Arts Centre are angry after receiving a letter saying it will no longer be running classes for adults with learning disabilities.

The Mill has just become a registered charity and is now called The Mill Arts Centre Trust.

The change means The Mill can pursue different ways of raising funds and has already secured grants from the Arts Council England and the Transform Foundation.

The Arts Council grant is funding a Season of Dance at the Mill while the £18,000 grant from Transform will fund the launch of a new-look website in September.

Keith Mitchel, chairman The Mill Arts Centre Trust, said: “The Mill has made huge progress in the last three years both in terms of its artistic offer and its financial strength and securing charitable status is a significant milestone which opens up avenues previously closed to us.”

Before becoming a trust, The Mill received investment from Banbury Charities and Banbury Town Council to refurbish its bar and cafe area with the second phase of the project to take place in July and August.

But a letter has now been sent to users of The Mill, saying the decision has been taken to stop running classes for adults with learning disabilities.

The letter also goes on to list other facilities in the town for people with learning difficulties.

In a statement to the Banbury Guardian, The Mill Arts Centre Trust said separate classes for adults with learning disabilities was out of step with modern ideas of involving people with learning difficulties in community arts events.

It added: “We have seen enrolment numbers dropping considerably on most of these classes.

“With our new status as a charitable incorporated organisation we are able to access a wider range of funding streams to fulfil our artistic ambitions and, as we formulate our new strategic business plan for our ongoing role as a multi-function arts centre, we are developing a high quality artistic programme that is accessible to the whole community and that embraces the needs of adults with learning disabilities and, indeed, of individuals across a full spectrum of ages and abilities.”

Past and present users of the centre have expressed their disappointment at the change and have pointed out the level of support that has been received from the centre in the past.

Artist Dawneey Monster said: “The Mill encouraged me, nurtured my creativity, supported me, believed in me, employed me.

“I would never have made my career in the arts if it wasn’t for the fabulous team at the Mill.

“To me as a young person, the Mill was vital. I am not alone in this thinking.

“To lose this place as a centre of community creativity is Banbury’s loss, more than it realises.”

Judy Brown, a former senior Oxfordshire County Council youth and community education officer, said: “The Mill, was such an important part of Banbury life for so many especially those who were not necessarily welcomed in other places.

“Held together with chewing gum and string by the amazing Tony Snee and his wonderful staff some of the most innovative and creative work I have seen emanated from this building.

“So many young people, artists and indeed staff grew and developed their skills in the Mill.

“It always had access to all and it was always a place of integrity.”