'Our financial challenges are far from over': More details on Hepworth Gallery redundancies revealed

More details have emerged on job losses at Wakefield's Hepworth Gallery.

Saturday, 27th February 2021, 7:00 am
The attraction has had to make huge savings because of the pandemic.

Six people have been made redundant at the city's riverside art venue, which has been open for just 12 weeks since the start of the pandemic.

The job losses, which comprised three full-time and three part-time posts, form part of a £1m savings programme put in place by Hepworth bosses.

The majority of the remaining workforce at the gallery remain on either full-time or part-time furlough, while another three members of staff are on reduced hours.

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The gallery will reopen in May with a huge exhibition celebrating the work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth, from whom the venue takes its name.

A spokeswoman for the venue said that the Hepworth is expected to reopen on May 21, exactly 10 years on from the day it welcomed its first visitors in 2011.

However, the number of days per week it will be open is likely to be scaled back to cut costs.

The spokeswoman said: "We normally generate at least third of our own income through ticket sales, car parking, event hire, café and shop sales and fundraising, with the remaining two thirds of our income coming from Wakefield Council and Arts Council England.

"However, as we will have been closed for 40 weeks of this financial year, we have had to implement significant cost savings of around £1 million in order to continue to be financially sustainable."

Wakefield's finest: Barbara Hepworth surrounded by examples of her work in 1967

The Hepworth had employed more than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff before the pandemic struck.

A number of posts which were vacant will now not be filled.

The spokeswoman added: "We are enormously grateful to all our stakeholders and funders who have stood by us through this unprecedented time.

"We have been successful at securing a number of emergency grants this year, but inevitably our financial challenges are far from over.

"As we plan for the forthcoming financial years, we are doing everything we can to ensure further job losses are always the last resort.

"While this last year has undoubtedly been challenging, there is plenty to look forward to and some exciting developments to the collection and new partnership projects to announce in the coming months."

The gallery's difficulties were first revealed on Wednesday, when senior Wakefield councillor Jacquie Speight defended the local authority's financial contribution to the venue.

Opposition Tories want to cut the annual six-figure grant paid to the Hepworth from public money, arguing that it does not offer good value.

The ruling Labour administration says however that the Hepworth brings draws large numbers of visitors to Wakefield every year and boosts the city centre's economy.

The Hepworth did say it was hoping to create jobs by opening its own cafe service within the gallery this year.

The company which had previously run the cafe at the venue went into administration in 2020.

When the gallery does reopen, residents who live in the Wakefield district will still have free entry.

Local Democracy Reporting Service