On Saturday, Norwich saw an impressively large, cheerful and determined demonstration as a thousand arts workers marched against the funding cuts imposed without consultation by the Arts Council on art organisations in the Eastern Region.
Represented were Creative Arts East, Eastern Angles Theatre Company, Norwich Puppet Theatre, Kings Lynn Arts Centre, Momentum Arts and Daedalus publishing from Cambridge and many more.
After speeches at Chapelfield the demonstrators marched through Norwich led by the Norwich Samba Band and Dancers providing a musical and colourful front line.
March Organiser Peter Beck, told News Line: ‘This is another example of the government’s centralisation and privatisation of everything.
‘They want to wash their hands of the Arts Council and, in typical fashion, not wanting to have anything to do with it, in the same way that they are trying to privatise the NHS.
‘The same way they’re trying to privatise our schools – they just don’t want to take responsibility and fund any arts organisations.
‘We’re not going to take it any more, and this is a democratic afternoon where the people have actually come out and said, “No – we’re not going to accept it, and we’re here shouting very loudly against the cuts!” ’
Sarah Foster, Marketing Manager, Creative Arts East, added: ‘These cuts are going to disenfranchise rural Norfolk from any opportunity to lead the arts or experience the arts or participate in the arts in their communities.
‘It’s wrong, it’s just wrong!’
Ivan Cutting, Artistic Director Eastern Angles Theatre Co. said: ‘What we don’t understand is why the Arts Council East doesn’t want to be associated with the word “rural”!
‘The East of England is a large section of rural areas and the arts organisations represented here are largely those that serve those rural areas – “outreach” it’s called.
‘And we just don’t understand why they’re taking money away from rural areas when it’s the blossoming section of the artistic world that happens in this region.
‘Up with this we will not put!’
Professor Ralph Yarrow, University of East Anglia Drama Department, commented: ‘UEA drama has very close connections with people like Eastern Aleels and Norwich Puppet Theatre who all stimulate interest in the Arts among young people in an absolutely crucial way in order to get going awareness in theatre and the Arts, giving young people a chance to discover their own creativity.
‘So we very much oppose these cuts which are intensely shortsighted, as often the money has gone to big organisations which leads to the neglect of the grass roots which are providing the stimulus from underneath.’
Stuart Goodman, photographer and lecturer at City College said: ‘These Arts Council cuts are appalling, particularly in Norfolk which is a rural county.
‘What Creative Arts East has done has been to take top class art into the community.
‘I’ve been part of a project where we took work by a group of photographers and poets around a number of village halls.
‘It was extremely effective.
‘Why on earth is it that the only people who are able to benefit from the arts are people who are able to travel into urban centres, in some cases travel 30 or 40 miles, to see an art event?
‘It’s got to be political why so many organisations who operate at grass roots level are being chopped like this.
‘Surely arts for all is what we should be aiming for, rather than art being just available to the lucky few who have the ability to pay vast amounts for travel into the cities, ignoring how awful public transport is in the rural areas.
‘It has to be stopped, it has got to be stopped!’