Cut the Arts, Save The Day Centre.  How do you defend yourself against this argumet

Convener(s): Kate Hall

Participants: Scarlet, Sarah & Kelly 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

How do you argue coherently and without getting drawn into the numbers game when your local Councillor is insisting that the arts should face more draconian cuts than any other service?

Ultimately it was the economic argument which we felt would be the strongest to put to such opposition i.e. I recently did a production which indirectly “cost” the council £500, but by doing it I brought £13K into the city – most of which were spent in the city on wages or was income for local businesses.

This is example of supporting the arts locally actually acting as an economic driving – invest in arts for growth. And long term investment would result in long term growth. 

It was also raised the issue that in cutting the arts you are cutting services that are run efficiently and without waste – is this not a model that should be invested in.  Especially as by cutting the arts you are likely to be impacting the very social system users that you are pitting the arts against – those in residential care, education etc etc – who would very much like to have their lives enhanced by the arts.  But if the arts are not there, or are few and far between, then the social system users will either not get what they want – or what they get will be more expensive than something that would otherwise be supplied by the arts organsation that has been cut.

These ideas are also found in another economic argument that by cutting the arts he was actually depriving young people of access to the arts in favour of supporting for the elderly – both are needs that need to be serviced.

Another economic argument suggested was that by cutting the arts now it would take a disproportionate amount of funding to restore it to a comparable level in better times.  And that by doing so it means that only the priviledged and wealthy will be able to access the arts in future times (aka Phillip Pulman’s recent speech on the bidding war for libraries.)

However, as the cuts are not solely fuelled by economics and are also ideological it is also necessary to have a defence which separates the arts from money – and gets down to other fundamentals.  The story was told of Churchill being asked during the war to cut all arts funding so that those funds could be diverted into the war effort.  His response was “If we do that why we are fighting this war.”  And this is the type of ideological response I wanted to find – and one for austerity Britain.

If we can’t afford the luxury of “risk taking” “experimentation” etc etc, and all those other soft outcomes which have supported the arts for the last 15 years – what kind of society do we want to live in?  Maybe the question should be more – “So where should the arts budget cuts be directed?” – will this debate flush out the ideologies and the values – and give us a level playing field to argue for INVESTMENT (a preferred description than subsidy – stolen from creative Scotland) in the arts.  So we don’t have to be pitted against pictures of old people trapped in their homes, or patients waiting in trolleys in hospital corridors.

Another tack that came up was flattery – challenging those holding the public purse to become visionary leaders rather than bean-counters – to hold them to be accountable to have vision and leadership, whilst also balancing the books (or as a consequence achieving this.

Which is, after all, the hoop we jump through every day.