FOLLOWING the success of the Big Arts Day, Swindon Council leaders have said arts and culture will remain a priority amid budget cuts.

Council leader Rod Bluh said the event’s high turnout – over 20,000 people visited Lydiard Park on Saturday – meant the arts had widespread support in the town and he was committed to holding similar events in the future.

Coun Bluh said: “I think it is all to easy to say it is something that’s not a priority but I’m one of those who thinks differently.

“I thought the day was fantastic to be honest – just the number of people and the atmosphere was so great.

“I think Helen Miah and the council team did a fantastic job putting it together. It just shows what can be done on a small budget.”

Coun Bluh said tighter budgets meant getting creative with the organisation of such events.

“It’s not necessarily all in terms of money because it’s not always about money but getting people to deliver. Culture can make a huge difference. We want to see culture up there as a priority.

“It’s always difficult when looking at education provision and social care provision. We spend a lot of time sorting out problems but I’m a huge supporter and I think it can be preventative.

“I want to see more of it and it’s about coming together to find ways to lower costs. But I think the value is not related to money.

“I would like to believe we could make this an annual event. Swindon has got a reputation for doing this sort of stuff well.”

Coun Bluh said he thought events such as the Big Arts Day and the Big Weekend were helping to change outside perceptions of Swindon.

“I do think we have got an issue with external perceptions of what we are all about. Swindon is now getting a reputation on the live music circuit. We have to keep it up and we are going to do everything we can.”

Mike Pringle, director of cultural development for Forward Swindon, said: “It was fantastic, awesome. There are a lot of talented people in Swindon.

“Culture is always in line to be cut and it’s use to being on a shoestring but this events shows that you can do something right that does not cost the earth.”