The Culture Secretary has praised Corsham’s Pound Arts Centre an example to the rest of Wiltshire, after a visit this morning.

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport joined the centre’s new director Russ Tunney and prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate Michelle Donelan for a tour of the centre, meeting with some of the artists who use it.

She said: “It’s clear that the Pound is a hub for north Wiltshire in terms of the arts and culture, with the way it has developed the atmosphere to support the arts with its regional touring programme and exhibitions of all sorts of arts forms.

“The Pound has received more than £800,000 of public funding, to make sure the programmes are successful, and so it can reach out to other rural communities in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

“It’s a very impressive facility they have here, and it's places like this which are important to help people become more involved in the community.”

Miss Donelan, who is standing for the Chippenham constituency, which includes Corsham, at next year’s general election, said: “Exposure to the arts and culture is really important but it’s not just about the arts here; people come here for community meetings, the cafe, and exercise groups like pilates, and this is a fantastic example we could replicate throughout the county.

“There are so many volunteers in Wiltshire doing fantastic things, and this is a great example of how organisations can work within the community and with government.”

Mr Tunney, who joined the centre just before Christmas, showed the minister round the centre’s exhibition space, which is currently hosting sculptures shortlisted for the Althea Wynne bursary award, which will be presented tonight.

He said: “I’m very excited about joining The Pound, it’s a very welcoming town and team here, and it was great to show the minister round.

“It has been hard in the arts for the last few years, but this place feels buoyant, and very well-supported. It’s a very busy building.

“I am looking forward to getting stuck into my own work and programme, and I am talking to lots of exciting companies at the moment.”

They also met some of the local artists who use the centre’s studio space.

Bromham-based painter Janet Coleman showed the minister some of her works. She said: “She took a real interest in what we do.

“It’s a really great place here, we don’t know what we would do without it. You are inspired when you come because of the arty atmosphere.

“To have a designated place is wonderful, and a lot of people in Corsham benefit from the centre.”

The Althea Wynne exhibition opens to the public on Saturday, and runs until February 1.