Equity is publicly calling on the Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, to urgently intervene following the recent Council decision to cut local arts funding in Bath and North East Somerset.
Equity’s Deputy for the General Secretary, Stephen Spence, said: “The Council has committed an act of cultural vandalism in Bath that will result in a new dark age for arts and culture in the region.
“Given Bristol is also poised to cut, the Culture Secretary must urgently intervene and facilitate a settlement to stabilise local arts funding, in a similar way to the reported deal with Surrey County Council over social care.
“Equity will be seeking an urgent meeting with Karen Bradley to discuss this. There is now a crisis with local arts funding that only the UK Government can resolve.”
Luke John Emmett, Founder of Theatre Bath added: “BANES Council are killing off culture and employment for freelance arts professionals in the Bath area. By removing the grants they are destroying any opportunity to create a creative ecology for the arts to be nurtured and flourish within Bath.
“This will have a massively adverse effect not only on local professionals but also graduating student companies from Bath Spa University who will come out of university into a town which is at the centre of a cultural wasteland. Wiltshire Council cuts its arts funding a few years ago.
“Somerset has been devastated by 100% cuts and Bristol is also loosing part of its funding. The knock-on effect will mean that all small to midscale companies within those regions will have very little chance of getting funding from the Arts Council and this will mean less companies touring work which will massively impact venues in Bath.
“These cuts are foolhardy and have been done with no consultation or assessment of their impact.”
More Equity members have also appealed to the Councils’ to think again.
Actor Derek Fowlds star of ‘Yes Minister” and ‘Heartbeat’ commented: “It’s a dire situation. What the arts can contribute to a community is so important. Not to mention all of the employment and business that will be lost locally. It does everyone good.
“I’ve been an actor for over sixty years – what little must they think of us and what we do as a profession. The South West Equity are doing a great job campaigning – let’s hope that the Council has a change of heart.”
Actor, comedian and presenter Les Dennis said: “I believe that Council investment in the Arts is vital. The theatre was so important to me growing up. It helped me find my voice and direction in life.
“Our children should be encouraged to embrace the arts to develop their cultural outlook. If the arts aren’t funded they won’t be able to. We ignore it’s importance at our peril.”
Bath and North East Somerset Council has endorsed a total cut in funding, while Bristol is proposing 20% in 2018-19 and additional 20% in 2021. Every pound invested in the arts generates two to seven pounds in return. This was understood at a national level when George Osborne said that cutting the arts was a “false economy”.
Actor Tony Robinson, who has lived and worked in the South West area for many years, said: “Our vibrant and internationally respected arts not only makes Bristol and Bath exciting places to live in but also encourage tens of thousands of people to visit our twin cities every year, and attract huge amounts of further investment. No one will win from this short-sighted strategy!”
B&NES made its decision on 14th February and Bristol Council met yesterday, 21st February. Equity members are contacting local MPs and Councillors to tell them to re-think the cuts.