Only an 11th-hour injection of government funding has rescued The Lightbox from closing its doors for good.

Woking’s award-winning museum and gallery was “within days of closure” said its director Sarah Brown as cuts to services by the bankrupt borough council threatened to prove terminal.

“We will lose £284,000 of council funding,” Sarah continued, “and the money we will receive is a major contribution to us being able to stay open.”

The Lightbox will be given £130,000 in a reallocation by the council of part of the £1million it in turn had received in 2022 from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), launched to help councils build pride in their communities and increase life chances.

“It is certainly welcome news,” Sarah said. “The UKSPF funding will help support The Lightbox to remain open to audiences and will enable us to develop a new operating model that continues to deliver our charitable objectives working with creativity, artists, local Woking communities and schools, but. importantly, is underpinned by a strong and sustainable philanthropic and commercial model.”

Cllr Will Forster, Woking council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for the voluntary sector, said: “This decision is about using funding in a positive way to minimise the impact of the council’s financial position on communities and local businesses.

“It shows that this council is prepared to think creatively, reprioritise and give direct support to where it is needed most. We’ve had to make some really tough decisions this year. I’m glad that by utilising this funding sensibly we can show organisations like The Lightbox and Citizens Advice that we value them and we are willing to do everything within our gift to support them.”

Woking MP Jonathan Lord said: “I am delighted that The Lightbox has every chance to secure its future given the council’s allocation from the UKSPF funding and it’s also important to pay tribute to the Arts Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and to Surrey County Council for their vital support as well.

“It has been great to work closely alongside The Lightbox during this period. Sarah Brown and The Lightbox trustees and team have done an absolutely amazing job in planning for a viable and highly exciting future.”

Although The Lightbox does, as Mr Lord noted, have more than one source of external funding, the harsh fact remains that it has to address a shortfall of £150,000 in its dealings with the council.

“The £130,000 is a only one-off payment but critically it buys us time, a year in which to create a new financial model,” Sarah said.

“We have to look at every aspect of what we do, where and how we charge, making sure we are getting the most out of our assets. For instance, I’m really keen to make more use of our courtyard, it’s a great outdoor space. Every drink, every piece of cake we sell means the cafe is working hard, and we’ll also have to think about our charging for some of our internal spaces.

“And we need to make sure we’re connecting with all those who have helped us in the past, whether it’s artists or philanthropists, and, of course, try to engage with people new to us.

“In the end we have to be more commercially savvy if we’re to remain accessible to those we need to reach.

“No-one wants to lose us.”