Art Cuts

Only yesterday, young Joseph was asking about the changes that have taken place in Greenwich since 2000, and it lies heavy upon me to talk about something that I failed to mention in my reply then.

In 2000, whatever we may have made of ‘corporate’ or ‘civic art,’ there was, at least, Art. The remains of it lie around the town, usually unsung (though I’m doing my best to trace most of them before they’re totally forgotten) but nevertheless there to brighten our day.

What has changed since then is the climate that produced that art; that believed that our cultural welfare was as important as other aspects of our social world. Of course that climate was nothing like the one enjoyed in the 70s and 80s – before the Arts Council’s Glory of the Garden. But there was a recognition, both formally and financially, that Art was an important aspect of human existence and of Greenwich itself.

That’s no longer so. On Saturday I talked about the withdrawal of funding for the London Bubble Theatre company. Ok, so that’s the Arts Council itself, swingeing their way through small companies that aren’t ‘innovative enough.’

But today, I have to bring you the sad news that Greenwich Council have withdrawn their funding for two other arts organisations – Lotus Arts (about which I concede I know nothing) and Greenwich Mural Workshop. They’re also cutting some funding for the other arts groups in the borough. Their excuse is that they’re creating a war chest for a “cultural olympiad.”

Everything, in virtually every respect, seems to be bowing towards a couple of weeks in 2012. In the meanwhile, we enter a cultural desert and twiddle our collective thumbs. And after 2012? Well, if current rumour is correct and the site at Stratford fails to sell for what the Government predicts for paying back the money they nicked from the Lottery kitty, we had better start learning to appreciate ‘ Tumbleweed Art.’

I was walking past the Rathbone benches last night, thinking that they needed MORE funding – they’re really in a state these days and need urgent remedial work. I find it utterly rich that Greenwich Council urged The Arts Council not to cut funding for Bubble, yet agreed to axe their own responsibilities.

Carol Kenna, Artistic Director of Greenwich Mural Workshopsent out a round-robin, that I had hoped would be on the website so I wouldn’t have to reproduce it here. I can’t find it, so here it is:

At the Cabinet meeting of Greenwich Council on Wednesday 23rd January the
decision was taken not to renew Service Level Agreements for Greenwich Mural
Workshop and Lotus Arts. The result of this will be to remove funding from
the two organisations from April 1st, but to give interim funding up to
September 30th 2008 at the same rate as 2007, to allow transitional
arrangements to be made.

In addition smaller cuts were made across the other seven arts organisations
in the Borough.

An amendment to this decision has been for the Cabinet to ask for an impact
report of this strategy to be produced by the Chief Executive.

The justification for the strategy is to establish a small fund to develop
BME arts and a £100,000 fund to develop a Cultural Olympiad.

GMW have objected to this strategy of recycling existing funds on two main
points.
Firstly that the assessment of GMW’s application is biased and
contradictory, contains inaccurate or totally false statements, accuses GMW
of not providing information that it has, claims we have exaggerated the
effectiveness of our work and denigrates the artistic quality of our work,
the artists and our management structures.
Secondly we contest that the development of the notion of a Cultural
Olympiad has been taken without the involvement of the Cultural sector and
with no clear vision of what this could involve. As a result Greenwich
Council has not behaved in the best interest of the community and has not
taken advantage of the pool of expertise that itself has supported for many
years.
Other representatives of arts organisations have pointed to the fact that by
consistently reducing the level of Council support it forces the sector to
raise funds from other sources thus rendering themselves less able to
respond to the ambitions of the Council in the manner they would wish to.
GMW supports this opinion.

We believe that GMW offers a unique method of working with a variety of
communities, schools and other organisations which could be of value to
delivering the Council’s ambition. We support the development of BME arts
and believe we have contributed to this over the years. We have supported
discussions leading up to the development of a Cultural Olympiad and believe
we could give further support and vision.

The impact of this decision upon GMW will be to close the organisation down.
We feel that you may wish to comment upon the impact that any of these
issues may have upon your organisations, schools, communities or individuals
and the cultural health of Greenwich as a whole

If you are able could we ask you to write to
the Chief Executive Mary Ney at mary.ney@greenwich.gov.uk with copies to
the Cabinet.

Cabinet members include:
Chris Roberts Leader of Council
Peter Brooks Deputy Leader Regeneration
John Fahy Culture & Olympics
David Grant Health, Adults and Older people
Denise Hyland Economy and Skills
Maureen O’Mara Neighbourhood Services
Kanta Patel Social Inclusion & Justice
Jagir Sekhon OBE Modernisation
Rajwant Sidhu Greener Greenwich
Jackie Smith Children & Young people’s Services

These Councillors can be contacted on their email addresses, by entering
their names as first name.surname@greewich.gov.uk
e.g.: chris.roberts@greenwich,gov.uk


One Comment to “Art Cuts”

  1. [...] culture section”. A couple of years ago a couple of the borough’s smaller arts projects had funding completely pulled and others saw cuts to fund these big-ticket projects under the guise of creating an Olympics [...]