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CUC to close, making 33 redundant

Charity to focus on supporting those with ‘fewer chances’

Published on December 2nd 2011.

CUC to close, making 33 redundant

THE Contemporary Urban Centre is to close, making 33 people redundant.

The huge arts and entertainment venue and social enterprise, run by charity People Can, says it will close on in a month's time “in order to safeguard the charity’s frontline services supporting communities and individuals affected by domestic abuse, homelessness and offending”.

Profits from the venue have gone towards funding People Can’s work.

(Click here to add text)(Click here to add text)A statement issued by CUC claims that cuts to the charity’s public sector funding, combined with the uncertainty of the hospitality and entertainment sector, mean that the charity has been forced to close the business.

The senior management team is currently exploring options for the future of the venue, it adds, and the sales and marketing teams are working to help find alternative venues for the events planned at the CUC in 2012.

It's the latest blow for those involved in attempting to regenerate the area as a cultural hub, coming just a few months after its neighbour A Foundation closed down.

Chief Executive of People Can Maff Potts says: “It is with great sadness that we have had to take the decision to close the CUC. As a charity our first priority is always the people we support and continuing to deliver services to help those with fewer chances in life.

“Despite the fantastic work of the CUC’s commercial team and successes at the venue – including recent events as part of Liverpool Music Week -­ no one is immune to the current economic climate. We are currently working closely with staff and are doing everything we can to support them in their search for new jobs.”

The venue will continue to run as usual until it ceases trading at 5pm on 3 January 2012.

Full of Eastern promise

THE CUC opened in 2007 at a cost of £17m, housing cafés, galleries and restaurants in the old “Buddlea Building”, a vast warehouse on Greenland Street that previously acted as a depository for secondhand furniture. 

It was refurbished and owned by Novas Scarman, a London-based charity formed by Michael Wake, designed to spearhead Mr Wake's vision of social engagement in which "the latent talent of the dispossessed" would be harnessed to "break the cycle of poverty and exclusion".

WakeWake at the Liverpool openingIt looked promising, but down in London it all began to unravel. A 2009 probe commissioned by the Housing Corporation claimed Wake spent substantial amounts of taxpayers' money on trips to Malaysia to buy art for the CUC with his fellow director Erwina A-Ghafar. 

Wake left with an £80,000 pay off weeks before Novas issued an “unreserved apology” for its “failure to manage elements of the finances” although all parties insisted his departure was not linked to the investigation. 

Wake and Ghafar returned from their Asian odysseys with tens of thousands of pounds worth of art and artefacts for the CUC. 

Among the Novas spend for Liverpool was £190,000 on antique fittings and a £60,000 “authentic Malaysian kitchen”. Indeed there was frequent talk of opening a full-time Malaysian restaurant on the top floor of the building, but this came to nothing. 

Thousands of pounds were also spent on decorative woodwork for the centre and, in a separate building, a £260,000 Chinese theatre was opened – only to close within months owing due to lack of use. 

Staff from Novas Scarman also attended Paris Fashion Week on expenses, the report found. Meanwhile, the charity was forced to bail out of a costly project to refurbish the landmark Arlington House hostel in London after its funds ran out. 

According to the report, by independent auditors BDO, Miss A-Ghafar visited Malaysia three times in 18 months, accompanied on more than one occasion by Mr Wake, to buy Thai, Filipino, Indonesian and Malaysian art. The pair stayed at the luxury Pangkor Laur resort, a collection of £350-a-night villas on the shore of a private island. 

Mr Wake promoted Miss A-Ghafar to the post of art director following a stint in the charity's architects' department. But the investigation found that she could not name any artists from the countries where her expeditions took place

Novas Scarman relaunched as People Can, with an entirely new board and chairman at the organisation,  in October. It followed a £3m funding cut across its services with a new focus on service user involvement.

It appointed Maff Potts, former director of homelessness at the Salvation Army and leader of the government’s Places of Change programme, as chief executive. He was brought in by the (then) Novas Scarman Group in October 2010 after a realisation that “something had to change”.

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AnonymousDecember 6th 2011.

Do the police have a view on all this?

AnonymousDecember 9th 2011.

Interesting background....

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