‘DON’T GO BREAKING MY ARTS’ – eight unions launch campaign to stop funding cuts

0
1389
Campaigners against cuts in art and culture funding created a human chain circle outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square
Campaigners against cuts in art and culture funding created a human chain circle outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

OVER 200 people attended a ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Arts’ rally outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday night.

The rally was organised by Lost Arts, which has been set up by eight unions whose members will be directly affected by funding cuts: the MU, Equity, BECTU, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Unite, Prospect and PCS.

A human chain was formed in front of the National Gallery to call on the government to protect funding for arts and culture. and was followed by a special event with speakers on the value of arts funding, live music and poetry at the nearby 12 Bar Club.

Maddy Radcliff, coordinator of the ‘Lost Arts’ campaign told News Line: ‘Enough is enough, arts funding must be protected because it is an essential service.’

Young Equity members at the Duke of York theatre, Lucy Read and Christina Bellavia said: ‘We fear that the arts will become an elitist activity.

‘Art, drama, music and dance can save people – everyone deserves the right to be creative.’

Another Equity member Kathy Trevelyan said: ‘It’s crazy cutting arts funding.

‘If you just look at the spin-off from theatre funding that is a huge draw from tourism.

‘Not only important for the economy it is vital for us as human beings.’

Addressing the rally, Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary of Equity said: ‘For every pound put into arts funding by government intervention £2-£6 can be generated.

‘With figures like that the government shouldn’t cut a single pound – art provides four per cent of the GDP.

‘It is the fastest growing sector of the economy.

‘If you want to have a society that is ignorant of its history then close our galleries and libraries.

‘If you want a society where we can understand the lessons of history, where the lights are still on in the streets and in the heads, then it must be funded.’

General Secretary of the Musicians Union John Smith said ‘We are a world leader in the creative industries – the public enjoy what we do.

‘We have a minimal grant from government and it has been cut 35 per cent in our sector.

‘They are tearing out the heart of the arts.’

Clara Paillard, President of the cultural section of the PCS and chairing the rally, thanked everyone for attending and called to ‘strike together and occupy’ to defend the arts services.

The ‘Lost Arts’ organisation has produced a long list of the cuts in funding to arts:

‘Arts Council England can’t escape the cuts. Under government orders to halve its administration costs, ACE is restructuring.

‘As well as downsizing offices across the regions, the plans change the number of regions from nine to five and axe 117.5 jobs – including 25 from the North, 22 from the South East, and 16 from the Midlands. That’s a 21 per cent staff cut.

‘This comes on top of ACE taking over Museums, Libraries and Council Archives responsibilities.’

The Coalition cuts are hitting hard the Combined Arts – Dance, Literature, Music, Theatre and the Visual arts.

‘The British Museum, the third most visited art museum in the world, is facing a real terms funding cut of 15 per cent to 2014.

‘The Dance Touring Consortium has been cut £24,971 since 2010.

‘The Dance Consortium, is a group of 17 theatres working together to find dance companies and productions from across the world to tour in the UK. Since 2000, Dance Consortium has presented 33 tours by 21 companies from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, France, The Netherlands, Taiwan, Israel and the US.

‘The British Library has been cut by £3.9 million.

‘The British Library holds a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland, with over 150 million books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints, drawings, patents, music scores and sound recordings. That includes everything from the Magna Carta to Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook and Beatles manuscripts alongside textbooks, fiction and over four million maps.

‘All of this covers 625km of shelves, and with three million items being added to the collection every year, that number grows by 12km annually.

‘It is open to the public, with on-site space for 1,200 people to explore the collections. Over 16,000 people use it every day.

‘According to a study by Oxford Economics on behalf of the British Library, the Library generates a net economic value of £419m for its users and UK society as a whole, and has a social and economic benefit cost ratio of 5.1. That means for every £1 it costs, the economic value of the Library’s impact is £5. That is a pretty good return on the government’s investment.

‘Library users recognise this too, and value the Library’s Reading Rooms and Business & IP Centre at £70 million a year – far more than the investment going in to the whole thing. So does the public, placing a value on the continued existence of the Library of £412.8 million per year.

‘Since 2010, 180 members of staff have left with more at risk of compulsory redundancy. Fewer staff are having to take on more and more work. Terms and conditions are changing to make it easier to dismiss them and staff are working in fear of losing their jobs.

‘Arts organisations can receive government funding in different ways. For MelloMello it is in the form of discretionary business rates relief provided by their local Liverpool council, worth £30,000, which the council has decided to withdraw.

‘MelloMello provides rehearsal rooms for new bands, space for cultural organisations and a dance studio.

‘A statement on its website says: “For the council to force MelloMello out of business by taking away the only charity it has ever relied upon sends out a clear message of cultural indifference, a blatant lack of acknowledgement for the people who have managed to build a sustainable not-for-profit business out of nothing, and serves as yet another affront to Liverpool’s musical, artistic and creative communities”.’

Among the museums cut is the Victoria & Albert which has been cut by £4.5 million since 2010.

‘You only see a quarter of the V&A’s vast collections at any time.

‘That is because the V&A is home to more than 2,241,700 items, including almost 1,200,000 museum objects and works of arts, over a million books and periodicals, and 811 archival collections; manuscripts, letters, business papers and other things.

‘The Museum’s exhibitions and displays are continuously changing. All the time, pieces are loaned to other museums in the UK and across the globe individually or as part of whole exhibitions.

‘’They cover a diverse array of subjects from Ceramics and Furniture to Glass, Metalwork and Paintings. You can visit the Renaissance era, The Raphael Cartoons, walk through the Islamic Middle East, head up to a model of the Crystal Palace, wander past the first tuxedo designed for women, and end up in the eclectic cast room.

‘And every piece of it is available to everyone, in galleries, through the Prints and Drawings and Blythe House Archive, and Library Study Rooms, or by appointment.

‘Also the Science Museum has had a massive £974,000 cut’

‘The Science Museum in London has over 600,000 items in its collections covering everything from Flight, Geophysics and Oceanography to Mathematics, Psychology, Space, Time, Medicine, Computing, Spying and Materials.

‘However, the Science Museum is just one of five museums in the Science Museum group, together with the National Railway Museums in York and Shildon, the National Media Museum in Bradford, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

Combined, five million people visit these museums every year and 16 million visit their websites, which are home to over 7.3 million items.

‘Since 2010, the Science Museum has lost 49 members of staff.

‘Among theatres, Taunton is to lose the Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre as a direct result of arts cuts from central and local government.

‘Somerset was the first County Council to cut its arts and culture budget by 100 per cent, with 10 arts organisations, including the Brewhouse losing all their local authority funding in 2010.

‘This is despite the fact that every pound invested in the Brewhouse generates around £8 for the theatre and arts centre to run, according to their latest blog.

The theatre and arts centre’s annual economic impact on the local area has been estimated at over £4 million, across restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels, car parks, jobs and other businesses a theatre can help support.

‘Also, the Clean Break Theatre has been cut by £10,987 since 2010.

‘Clean Break was set up by two women prisoners in 1979. They believed theatre could tell the stories of women in prison, who had no way of telling people about their experiences.

‘Now, the company’s education and training programmes don’t just dramatise women’s myriad experiences of crime and punishment, they also give participants a creative and professional skill-set, provide training opportunities, qualifications and specialist support, leading them on to education and employment.

‘Among the visual arts, The National Gallery has lost 15 per cent of its public funding.

Since 2010, the overall budget of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been cut by over a third.

‘The most recent cut to arts and culture could lead to a third of those supported by Arts Council England receiving a 100 per cent cut.

‘At the same time, local government’s arts and culture spend has been cut by £124 million.

‘The government continues to make cuts to arts and culture and ignore its true value.

‘Arts and culture costs just 14p per person per week.

‘Creative industries employ 2.5 million people.’