A NEW era is dawning for a Basingstoke arts centre, which has been blighted by funding troubles in recent years.

Fairfields Art Centre Trust (FACT), the charity that runs Fairfields Art Centre, has announced it will cease operation.

Its Grade II listed base, in Council Road, will now be taken over by the long-established Proteus Theatre Company, currently based in Queen Mary’s College.

Proteus plan to turn the building into a “creation space” that will host a wide variety of arts and cultural events.

Mary Swan, artistic director and chief executive of Proteus, said the development was a “positive opportunity”.

She added: “We want to create a buzzing, vibrant community resource where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together to experience a diversity of cultural encounters.

“The Proteus Creation Space will be a building open to all, enabling us to develop even stronger relationships with our local communities.”

The winding up of Fairfields follows two years of funding troubles. In 2011, Hampshire County Council, one of Fairfields’ principle financial backers refused to renew its annual £48,177 grant to the trust.

In 2012-13, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council was the art centre’s only financial backer with an annual grant of £38,130 and a £40,000 rent subsidy.

However, a report, which was presented to the borough’s decision-making Cabinet last month, recommended pulling Fairfields funding from April 2013.

The report noted: “Despite efforts to improve income generation, concern remains that there has been limited development at the centre, and the organisation (FACT) remains heavily reliant on council funding.

“Given the financial uncertainty of FACT, the Proteus operating model offers sustainable future for the centre.”

Councillor Elaine Still, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s Cabinet member for communities, sport, and culture, welcomed the development.

“The Creation Space is a really exciting opportunity to get more people involved in trying new things and to enjoy being creative.

“I would like to thank all of those involved in Fairfields Arts Centre for the work they have done to champion culture in Basingstoke and Deane.

“I am very much looking forward to working with Proteus to ensure the Creation Space achieves its potential and I am positive that it will be a success.”