Council agrees to take over management of The Coro

Coronation Hall in Ulverston.

A popular arts, cultural and community venue will continue to operate following a decision taken by Westmorland and Furness Council’s Cabinet today (Tuesday, 14 November).

The council has confirmed it will take over the management of The Coro in Ulverston from 1 January 2024, committing to keep the venue operating and retaining the current temporary pop-up library offer.

The Cabinet agreement follows the announcement by The Coro’s current operators, social enterprise Ulverston Community Enterprises (UCE) and its subsidiary Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Ulverston Coronation Hall (UCH), of its intention to pass responsibility for the day-to-day operation of The Coro back over to the council at the end of the year.

UCE/UCH has operated The Coro since 2016, under a lease management agreement with the previous authority, South Lakeland District Council.

In an announcement last week, the current operators said a combination of factors, including the impact of the pandemic, followed by drastically rising costs and inflation, changes in audience and hirer behaviour, recruitment difficulties, and a tough landscape for arts and culture funding, meant they found themselves faced with an uncertain future and unable to continue with their plans for The Coro.

Today’s meeting of Westmorland and Furness Council’s Cabinet confirmed that from 1 January 2024 the management and operation of The Coro will revert to the council and that the council will continue to operate it as a cultural and community venue, initially until March 2025.

This will allow the council time to prepare a detailed operational model and business case for the operation of The Coro after March 2025. This will be presented back to Cabinet for consideration by no later than September 2024. The business case will also consider what capital investment would be required to enhance the visitor experience at The Coro and to improve the long term sustainability of the venue.

Today’s Cabinet meeting also agreed that the current temporary pop-up library offer will continue to be provided from The Coro and Ulverston Market Hall, whilst options for reinstating the permanent library offer in Ulverston are developed and consulted on.

The Cabinet has allocated a £435,000 budget for The Coro’s running costs up to March 2025.

Councillor Virginia Taylor, Westmorland and Furness Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said: “This decision today secures the immediate future of The Coro and will hopefully provide reassurance that this popular cultural and community venue will continue to operate.

“The Coro currently hosts national and international acts alongside local events and community organisations.

“It is a historic building built by public subscription and so it is right that it continues as a much-loved local venue. We will be carrying out an extensive appraisal and putting together a full business case of options to keep the Coro for the people of Ulverston in the long term.

“We would again like to place on record our thanks to the dedicated staff, board members and volunteers of both UCE and UCH who have worked tirelessly since 2016 to operate the Coro and to provide the town with a vibrant cultural offering, and a venue for many community groups and events.

“We recognise that a change in the management may cause some uncertainty, but we can reassure the community that we absolutely recognise the importance of The Coro to Ulverston and our ambitions are to maintain, protect and enhance its role as a vital arts, cultural and community venue.’’

Work is now ongoing to fully investigate and understand the emerging opportunities that result from having The Coro back under local authority control from 1 January.

In the meantime, all public and private events booked in up until the end of 2023 will be going ahead as planned, and anyone with an event pencilled in for 2024 will be contacted over the coming weeks.