Thursday, 14 April 2011

Scissors, Paper, Stone

I've not said anything yet about the ACE cuts - which have withdrawn 100% of funding to three Lancaster-based arts oganisations: Litfest (who I work for), Storey Gallery and Folly. More widely, four poetry publishers have lost all their ACE funding, as well as two national literature development organisations, a poetry festival and the award-giving Poetry Book Society. Of course other literature organisations have stepped into the spaces: newly-funded publishers, writing development agencies and festivals. It will be a new landscape. There is a part of me that is excited by the new contours, the new horizon (and I'm someone who really doesn't like having change enforced upon me), blended with a deep sadness at losing well-loved institutions. I think what's particularly hard as a Lancasterian, is that we've [potentially] lost our easily accessed, embedded arts scene. But not all of them. And we still have a vibrant, active population.

Carol Ann Duffy set this out in a poem commissioned by the Guardian on Saturday - focusing on the losses for literature. Another poet, Rebecca Irvine Bilkau, sent me this one:

Model citizens
A long view on the cuts to Arts Funding 2011

We trained years for this, strained
our groceries through austerity measures
till they were piquant with our pride

and self-doubt, we mastered our passions,
kept children where we could afford them
best: un-conceived and we anticipate

our rewards, we economise on dancing,
pare back on poetry, paint only the colour
of money and we do it all because this

is cutting edge patriotism, this morality
with a lazy eye. Our names died,
because nothing was done in them

but our legatees will never be confused.
The bankers will balance the deficit left
by every mark we let them stop us making

selling the few we dared. The profit: theirs.
This is the new patronage. Art from those
who can’t afford to eat is marvellously rare.

News yesterday that Zadie Smith's campaign to save Brent Library has lost. I wonder what the building will become used for? Such losses feel irreversible.

Unlike the arts. They don't need buildings. Bricks and mortar might help an organisation's identity, as much as it might restrict it, but the artists that feed and fill the rooms are not tied to particular spaces, and will continue to produce regardless of these organisations/buildings. Finding places to exhibit their work, to reach audiences will be harder. Not impossible. And maybe it will force the creators to embrace new ways to present work

Perhaps the work produced will be more urgent, more insistent, more challenging to the imbalance of government support, more eager to present the economic, social and individual values of art. More committed to reaching people and spreading the word.

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