ARTS groups in Malvern have been given a deadline of January to apply for grants or risk missing out.

The First Base scheme is run by Worcestershire County Council's Arts Service and offers up to £500 to new or existing groups in any of the arts.

The average grant is £350.

The money is given towards any creative pursuit that brings art into the community.

The grants are considered "lifelines" by some of the organisations but require matching funding from them.

Malvern Fringe Arts was one of last year's beneficiaries, obtaining a grant of £250 to put on a performance of contemporary dance.

Alan Turnbull, a representative of the group, said: "It was absolutely essential. We would have made a big loss on the event otherwise."

Organisers stress that the grants are vital to groups that offer entertainment away from the mainstream.

"We can only offer these non-commercial events with the aid of grants such as the First Base one," said Mr Turnbull.

Applications for the end of January should be made to the council's arts service, which will even help interested groups help fill in their application forms.

Louise James, the county council's assistant arts officer, said: "Anyone who has tried to get a creative project off the ground knows how difficult it can be to secure that first stage of funding. This is the gap that First Base can fill.

"Last time around, First Base helped to fund a Flamenco dance group, young script writers, jazz festivals and sculptural artists, among others."

Groups interested in applying for a grant should call the council's art service on 01905 766247.