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Lost arts: recording devastating cuts and putting the case for arts and culture

In this article, Maddy Radcliff, co-ordinator for the Lost Arts project, outlines some of the cuts the government has made to arts funding and the appalling effects that these cuts will have on arts and culture. Lost Arts is a three year project to catalogue and record all the cuts in the arts sector caused by government cuts.

Making the case for arts and culture should be simple.

Government invests in the arts.

People buy art and culture or buy into art and culture, so the government’s initial investment is returned - in the form of tax, job creation, the development of the UK’s world class creative industries, increases in the export of luxury goods and fashions, award winning theatre, film and music, increasing educational attainment in schools, creating a more skilled workforce, health and improving recovery times, civic participation and community cohesion, academia and the preservation and continuation of the collected knowledge of thousands of years of history, and of course tourism.

Despite all of this, arts funding is seen as an easy target.

Many people mistake the central message of campaigns like Lost Arts and those who want to see arts and culture invested in. They think we are calling for the arts to be protected at the cost of everything else like education, health and defence.

That’s not true. What we are saying is that arts cuts have been disproportionate – the axe wielded without a real understanding of the arts and culture sector and how it relates to the economy or our quality of life – and unrecorded.

That is not fair.

Funding also has repercussions beyond art for art’s sake. It means investing in jobs, health, education and industries that put the UK on the map because they are successful, bringing in global audiences and lots (and lots) of cash - think Danny Boyle, Adele, Wallace and Gromit, War Horse, Christopher Kane, Doctor Who, James Bond and The Rolling Stones.

That is why it should be seen as a real investment.

Meanwhile, government spending on arts and culture, already miniscule, is still going down.

Public funding cuts

This year, the total DCMS budget is £2.54 billion. By 2014/15, this goes down to £1.2 billion, thanks to the end of the Olympics and the drive to cut, cut, cut. The arts alone are taking a 30% cut. Arts Council England’s grant in aid budget is going down from £387.7 million in 2011/12 to £349.4 million in 2014/15.

Not only that, but the government scrapped the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and gave its responsibilities to the Arts Council, which is under orders to cut its own administration costs by 50%. Their plans to cut costs include cutting 150 jobs. That need to reduce costs is hitting DCMS as well, where all 400 civil servants were handed ‘at risk of redundancy’ letters titled “Your future” as part of a 50% staff cut by 2014.

The UK Film Council was also scrapped and its responsibilities given to the BFI – their last film The King’s Speech went from a £4 million investment to Oscar and BAFTA glory and over £45 million in UK and Republic of Ireland box office alone.

Other hit films the UK Film Council helped get from page to screen include Oscar-winner Gosford Park, Ken Loach’s Palm D’Or winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley, The Constant Gardener, This Is England, Touching the Void, Adulthood, Fishtank, In The Loop an St Trinians.

At the same time, local authority support for arts and culture is going down, with some like Somerset County Council cutting arts funding by 100%.

What it means

All of the above is cause for concern.

As a direct result of government cuts, the list of Lost Arts is already well over 500 organisations long. Galleries are putting on fewer exhibitions, community centres are closing, landmark festivals are being cancelled, and jobs are disappearing.

A good example is the London Transport Museum, with seven jobs cut, significantly lower pay grades for any new staff, education and outreach programmes teaching children about road and rail safety drastically downsized, and the auctioning of over 300 original posters dating from 1913 to 1955.

“Not all cuts are as obvious as those to health or social services, but they still diminish our quality of life,” says John Medhurst, Policy Officer at PCS. “It’s important to bring out less visible cuts to arts and cultural provision and show how they lessen opportunity and erode life chances, especially in communities and sectors that are already suffering disproportionately from unnecessary cuts.”

Flambard Press is another. Based in Northumberland, it’s a small publishing house that focuses on providing new and northern writers with their first experience of being published. Thanks to the cuts, Flambard closed.

This summer, we lost the Theatre Writing Partnership. Born of four theatres in the East Midlands, the small team of two committed to reading the first 15 pages of any unsolicited script – a rare service that provided writers with essential feedback early in their careers.

The Duke’s Playhouse in Lancaster lost so much to the cuts its funding levels now are the same as in 2001. Duke’s five productions a year will go down to three and any others are entirely dependent on project funding.

Or look at Manchester Comedy Festival, cancelled. Sound it Out Community Music, closed. Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company, closed. Warehouse Theatre Croydon, closed. The UK’s longest running photography festival, cancelled.

Lost ArtsThe Lost Arts project

Lost Arts is a three year project to catalogue and record all the cuts in the arts sector caused by government cuts. As the Lost Arts map shows, this is not confined to one town or city but happening across the UK. The idea is to take the list of losses to the government as evidence of why the arts need support in the next spending review. We will also be sharing data with False Economy.

Lost Arts is recording and blogging about cuts and how they are affecting communities across the UK. Follow us on twitter @LostArts_ and visit www.lost-arts.org for more information about cuts where you live.

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