If they do it in Newcastle, they can do it everywhere

a cartoon like styli shed image of a woman's face as she holds a loaf of bread and a bunch of rosesLast week Newcastle City Council announced that in order to meet the budget cuts it had to make, it would axe all its support to arts venues. This follows Somerset’s decision to withdraw all arts funding in 2010, and major, major cuts by local authorities in Derby and Darlington. Thin end of the wedge?

Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle council said, of the cuts:

‘the council had been obliged to take “awful decisions”, and that it was impossible to argue that the “arts come before life-and-death services like children’s social work”.’

Impossible to argue that the arts are life enhancing? Has everyone forgot the song ‘Bread and Roses?

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

(To hear my favourite version of the song…)

Life isn’t simply about getting by – it’s about exploring, reflecting and really living the journey too. That’s why the arts matter to me.

The Arts Council once put together six key messages about why the arts matter:

  • the arts are essential to our quality of life
  • the arts are a UK-wide international success story thanks to sustained investment
  • the arts budget is tiny, and the return on investment is huge
  • sustained support of the arts will allow them to play a vital role in Britain’s economic recovery
  • the arts are central to a government that places a healthy society at the heart of its agenda
  • any cut to the arts will have a disproportionate effect for a relatively tiny saving to the public purse

None of these speak to me directly about why the arts matter so here are mine:

  • the arts help me reflect on the world I live in; they help me understand both it and my reaction to it.
  • They challenge me, make me question and think again
  • The arts are tools of expression, enabling people to use their creative power for the benefit of others
  • The arts counter the mass cultural ‘sameness’ of mainstream film and TV – they provide texture, variety, depth, discovery, and enable us to marvel at the abilities of humankind
  • The arts save people – look in school classes now and you’ll see the kids saved by the studio theatre, the art room, their camera, their computer. The are both a way through and a way forwards for many; essential.
  • They enable people to imagine something better – the arts are our imagination
There are loads of reasons why the arts matter – see the Cultural Learning Alliance excellent publication ImagineNation for more – but those are mine. It’s time we all started articulating our own. So to paraphrase pastor Martin Niemöller:


First they came for the arts in Derby and Darlington,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t from there.

Then they came for the arts in Somerset,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t from there either.

Then they came for the arts in Newcastle,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t from there, (although I have visited)

Then they came for the arts where I live,
and there was no one left to speak out…

So come on then why do the arts matter to you? And what are you going to do to show it?

The origin of the image is unknown, and remember if you have enjoyed this and want to read more, you can subscribe to Jo Verrent’s blog by email.

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