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The biggest shake up in arts funding in England since the Arts Council began.  Or at least that is what is being said.  With credit to Arts Council England (and vested interest here, I did used to be in their employ, however) this was always going to be an immensely difficult task, making 15% cuts to the portfolio is mega.

The biggest shake up in arts funding in England since the Arts Council began. Or at least that is what is being said. With credit to Arts Council England (and vested interest here, I did used to be in their employ, however) this was always going to be an immensely difficult task, making 15% cuts to the portfolio is mega.

To have totally cut 206 organisations already being funded seems so harsh but by not ‘salami slicing’ and instead looking afresh and introducing 110 organisations into the newly created National Portfolio Organisation fold as well as giving uplifts to some, they have been brave and transparent in their decision making to leave 695 funded organisations across the country. They are the organisation that many love to hate, but let us not forget that the Arts Council lobbied hard against the cuts in the first place and will not have enjoyed being in this position one bit. So there, it is said, there are two sides to every story.

Whilst the cuts to the arts need to be seen within the context of national austerity, there is something wrapped up in all of this about value. The civic value of arts and culture to our lives. Everyone’s lives. And the importance of that.

I think there is a genuine challenge in articulating this value meaningfully to decision makers – who, if they have not been ‘on the bus’ won’t truly get it. I say ‘on the bus’ because of the work we are involved in in Peterborough. At the end of last year local residents were invited by Encounters to join a bus tour and to take and show other residents a particular place. This was a place of their choosing, perhaps a romantic spot, or a sad space of reflection, or their happy place – and then through the telling of the story of this place, affinities, understanding and friendships were formed across neighbourhoods and cultural divides.

The point is though, if you weren’t ‘on the bus’ with these memories and stories being openly shared, to see the transformational effect this was having within a carefully managed creative process, how do you ‘get it’ if you are Mr or Mrs Decision Maker - or how do you see things differently, to see there can be a different way of doing things.

That an arts project can change people’s perceptions of each other, provide a way into others’ lives and cultures and lead to a willingness to get involved in other local activities is a wonderful thing. April fools this is not.

Valuing the contribution and varied role that art makes to our society is clearly a battle far from won. Yet.

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