ARTS Centre manager Clarry Bean has stepped down from his role after more than two decades of running Swindon’s cultural hub.
The venue on Devizes Road is being taken over by HQ Theatres after budget cuts to Swindon Council forced them to tender the contract.
Clarry, 57, made the decision to resign after he saw there would no longer be a role for him, and will now take a pension and focus on part-time work, including his new singing act with daughter Abby Mansi, called The Generation Gap.
“The main factor in my decision to leave was that the council are no longer able to fund the centre to the same extent that they have been doing,” said Clarry.
“When I saw the new structure there was no longer a comparable role for what I have been doing, and the other jobs that were available were nothing like what I wanted to do.”
Clarry said he has loved every moment of his 21 years at the Arts Centre, and he has programmed up until Christmas, so it will still carry his mark.
“I believe in the power of the arts to change people’s lives,” he said. “This guarantees its life for another five years at least.
“A company has taken it on and the council has not simply decided to shut the doors, which was a real possibility. I do understand the council’s position and they have pressing priorities.
“HQ Theatres have got much more marketing clout than we ever had, so there are positives, but at the same time I am a bit concerned.
“This is a real change from the 1940s, when Swindon was the first town to have an arts centre funded by the council. That has all ended now. I am pleased we managed to sustain the community arts activity, because there are a lot of practising amateur groups in Swindon.”
Clarry is proud of how the centre has developed during his watch.
“When I took up the role it was in a sadly neglected state of repair,” he said. “There was no heating and the theatre lighting was 20 years out of date.
“Being able to put in a professional programme, we managed to invest in the centre and turn it around fairly quickly. During my time we had two major investments, in 2002 and 2009. In terms of facilities that was great, as now we have the lifts and decent equipment, it has come on quite a lot. That was great because I was quite worried about the place.”
The Arts Centre has always been a part of Clarry’s life, and he said his first day away from it was quite a wrench.
“I was brought up in Swindon, so my earliest memory of the place was going there to perform with my school,” he said. “It is one of those places you fall in love with quickly because it is so unique. To find myself in charge of it a few years later was simply brilliant.
“I have never had a day where I dreaded going into work. I have loved my time there and I feel very privileged. All the staff I have worked with have had a real passion.
“You do not work there for the money, it is for the love of the place.”