British Conservatives attack arts

This video is called Protest against Dutch arts cuts, the Hague, June 27 2011.

By Maddy Radcliff in Britain:

Cuts mean catastrophe

Wednesday 09 January 2013

The consequences of the Con-Dems‘ assault on the arts

Savage arts cuts, actively promoted as a means of saving the British economy, are costing jobs, opportunities and economic success.

Such attacks, reinforcing a lack of confidence in one of Britain’s most profitable sectors, can only mean reduced access to arts and culture for us all.

And the situation is getting worse. Just before Christmas, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) passed its Autumn Statement cut down to Arts Council England.

Four hundred jobs are at risk in the DCMS and 117 have already gone from the Arts Council, so the idea is to pass the cut down again to arts organisations as quickly as possible.

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey said that the “arm’s-length” body’s grant-in-aid budgets for arts organisations and museums from central government will go down £3.9 million in 2013/14 and £7.7m in 2014/15.

DCMS’s argument? The quicker the cut, the more time there is to adjust.

But in the 18 months since arts and culture took a 30 per cent funding cut, 25 arts organisations supported by public investment closed.

Among them is Sound It Out Community Music, which provides programmes, training and mentoring to vulnerable children, the elderly, ex-offenders and isolated groups.

Many more are shedding staff to fend off closure and others are returning to their core activity. Museums, galleries and theatres are dropping education and outreach projects in order to pay the bills.

The Duke’s Playhouse in Lancaster lost so much to the cuts it was forced to cut two shows a year and rely on project funding for anything else.

Cuts meant Bolton Museums had to sell 36 paintings to raise funds, including pieces by Picasso, Hutchinson and Pugin.

Sold to private buyers, many of those works will have been taken out of public hands.

They’re no longer a public investment and no longer there for people to visit for free.

In London, the British Library has lost 180 jobs and staff are fighting more redundancies and changes that make firing them easier.

A similar battle is being fought at the London Transport Museum, where 15 jobs are at risk and an education programme that works with children in deprived areas has been massively scaled down.

At this point in any good show there would be an interval. Arts organisations would have time to find a way through the trials and emerge triumphant in the final act.

But the arts are caught in a perfect storm. Audiences do not have money in their wallets to spend and the government’s promised philanthropy drive bore minimal fruit.

The threat of local authority cuts is looming large over the sector like a puppet Voldemort – or not. Faulty Optic, with its quarter century of experience in mechanical theatre and puppetry, closed this year.

Newcastle City Council is threatening to cut its entire arts budget, which means most of the city’s 18 libraries will be closed down or given to community groups.

Arts organisations affected include the Theatre Royal, Side Gallery and Live Theatre. The latter is the company Lee Hall wrote The Pitmen Painters for, and where it first pulled in the punters before transferring to the National Theatre and then on to Broadway. It risks losing £86,000.

Newcastle is a test case. If the council succeeds, others will follow.

Shadow media, culture and sport minister Dan Jarvis was right to describe the situation as “catastrophic” at the end of the year.

It is affecting arts and culture of all shapes and sizes. Kidderminster Library Gallery, a much-used purpose-built community performing arts space, is being reappropriated by the council as office space to save money. West Sussex County Youth Theatre closed after 23 years working with local 14-25 year olds. Battles for libraries are raging on.

In response, the Lost Arts project has been established to catalogue everything arts and culture have lost because of cuts to public funding.

It was set up by eight unions as a record of what is lost and what we want back and as a reminder of what arts and culture achieved when funded properly and what can be achieved again with proper funding.

It is a campaign too, raising awareness of the real impact of cuts and providing a platform for local campaigns and people who love the arts to shout about them.

Losses already on the list include jobs, opening hours, shows, performances, training programmes and outreach activities that create jobs and opportunities.

The idea is not to blame managers or the arts council or to claim that arts and culture is more important than education or health, even though creativity is fundamental to both.

It is to make sure the results of arts cuts, made without any real understanding of the social and economic value of arts and culture, are recognised for what they really are.

Maddy Radcliff is the co-ordinator for Lost Arts and can be contacted at

5 thoughts on “British Conservatives attack arts

  1. Reblogged this on bearspawprint and commented:
    So art will have to be auctioned to private bidders and warehoused in private collections and bank vaults as investments. Back to the Middle Ages and patrons. Or off to the the garrets and basements for artists….of all genres…


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