COUNCILLORS have heard plans to make the Blackwood Miners Institute a more attractive destination for visitors. The venue, which counts Caerphilly council as its sole trustee, is hoping to revamp its ticketing system and website to draw more people through its doors. A report says a lack of a dedicated car park has prevented BMI from installing tourism signs to direct visitors to the building. But members of the council’s cabinet lent their support to an improved marketing campaign to sell the venue, including the exploration of electronic signs. Last year 31,325 people visited shows over the course of the year’s programme, a drop of more than five per cent over the previous year. Council funding for the BMI has also fallen by 11 per cent in five years, from £365,279 in 2013/14 to £324,362 in 2018/19. The current subsidy represents 42 per cent of the venue’s total running costs – any further reductions have been deemed a risk by the Arts Council of Wales (ACW). ACW pays an annual grant of £129,375 to the BMI, which covers the cost of touring, shows, workshops, bar staff wages and any overtime. Giles Ballisat, BMI’s theatre and arts service manager said at cabinet on Wednesday: “The grant allows us to be bolder with our programming. “We can take calculated risks, but there is the risk that the local authority could reduce its subsidy further.” One of the council’s deputy leaders, Councillor Sean Morgan, asked if making the venue’s bar “more customer friendly” could help. The meeting heard of plans to knock an internal wall through to expand the bar, but such proposals would fail to get listed building consent. Cllr Morgan added: “You were set quite a task when you came in, but we do need to move the institute in a more commercial direction to reduce the council subsidy.” Councillor Dave Poole, leader of the council, proposed that electronic screens could be installed outside the venue and further afield. “I can’t see why we can’t have a freestanding board that says what is coming up,” he said. “But I don’t want to restrict it to Blackwood, we should advertise in Risca, Caerphilly, Bargoed. “I’m frustrated as the potential of this institute is huge. We need to think bigger, we’ve got money in reserves to invest to save – lets have some signs. “I’d like to see the day where we have a doorman at the front door telling people, ‘sorry we’re full’. “Once they’ve been through that door once, they’ll want to come back, but we need to get them through the door first.” Christine Harrhy, the council’s interim chief executive, added: “Blackwood town centre has got a healthy footfall but that relationship between it and BMI hasn’t been particularly maximised.”