The Crisis of British Theatres… Volume 2

23/11/2020

Art-Rising has been away for a while, and we apologise for that. As the second lockdown has come, we have been busy creating work that we hope to show soon. In the meantime, a discussion should be made about the crisis in the arts at this time and little support being offered is currently the new normal. Cameron Mackintosh came onto the television to tell us all about his "fightback of the theatre", whilst trying to sell his own Les Misérables concert coming in early December. The irony of it is remarkable that someone like Mackintosh, a capitalist hoarder who sacked his staff and made the arts struggle for decades, has the audacity to come onto mainstream media and begin to spin a new narrative. Therefore, groups like Art-Rising are essential to discuss these issues in articles, editorials and general discussion to make awareness of the hypocrisy plaguing the arts at this time. People like Cameron Mackintosh must be held accountable for the damage that they are creating to the arts. That is not to say that the government has offered anything new at this time, instead of ignoring the arts and putting damaging advertisements for people to give up their artistic careers for something more "tangible". This was commissioned by Rishi Sunak: A man who is seen to have "saved" Britain from the brink of destruction from his furlough support and crisis package for the arts. But, with his mini-budget expected to be announced on Wednesday, I would not be surprised if more cuts to the arts would be added during this budget. A petition of more than 8,000 people has been signed to sustain arts funding and invest in new projects as part of its upcoming three-year spending plan. The Public Campaign for the Arts created this petition, along with an Arts Map so money can be allocated to support local theatres. The petition states: "The government's unprecedented, £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund was an important step towards ensuring their survival. But social distancing continues to present major challenges for many to reopen. In the Comprehensive Spending Review, we urge the government to shore up its investment in our globally renowned creative industries, unleashing their potential to help our communities recover."


We had written about the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund before and the success of the arts industry for piling on the pressure to make the government reconsider our cultural heritage. But it has not provided a long-term solution to the economic crisis in the arts. Instead, we are now living in a 'wait and see' scenario for which theatre venue will be saved from the fund (providing they create a profit), and which venue will be closed. From the rounds of funding currently happening, it seems to be treating the middle tier venues, whilst smaller ones that offer for specific communities have been left in the dark. The government should provide an emergency nationalised service for the arts, putting it back into the public sector and keeping it alive during the economic downturn. This is not the Tories plan, for Boris Johnson recently made his speech at the Conservative party conference that the private sector is the best way forward in economic recovery. As we have seen time, and time again, the private sector hinders the arts most of all. We saw this in the disastrous privatisation of the arts in the 1980s, which is still having an impact today. The archetypes of commercialisation: Cameron Mackintosh, Ambassador Theatre Group and Andrew Llyod Webber have done very little to support struggling theatre companies. They act on their self-invested interests to instead create an artistic economy that cannot sustain itself, other than the London centric capitalist economy.


Another issue that is not being addressed is the severe lack of council funding being provided by the central government. We had recently spoken about Lincoln council's decision to cut funding to the Lincoln drill hall, but this is not the only case. Maidstone Borough Council's Economic regeneration and leisure committee (predominantly a Tory council) decided to end their contract with Parkwood Theatres who had been running the Hazlitt theatre. The reason for their decision is that the venue was not 'commercially viable'. A running topic that we have seen in other council decisions. More than 6,000 of Maidstone's residents have signed a petition calling on the council to reconsider it's a decision with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's composer Darren Clark creating traction towards it. Darren Clark has also released a song on SoundCloud to raise awareness about this issue. The music can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/darrenclark-4/all-the-little-things. Darren Clark and the rest of the residents have begun to grow resistance towards the council's decision. Ordinary residents are starting to criticise cuts to the arts, and it's about time artists begin to realise their political worth and speak up for the same issues. Any attack or criticism of the government is worth fighting for, for soon there will be no new work left.


Art-Rising believes in fighting for this, but it cannot do it alone. Over the last year, we have tried to mount projects highlighting awareness for the crisis surrounding the arts. Unfortunately, the program has attracted little attention. This is not at the fault of anyone, but our small size and way of operation make it hard to keep in contact. The pandemic has exacerbated this. Because of this, we have decided to make it a very focused theatre organisation that creates work specifically from its members. That does not mean that we will not accept submissions, but it is now about building an organisation that operates as a theatre company. We will be creating work with the members we have and build out to communities so that we can have that debate and interaction. We will still be writing articles, and we will soon start to produce more content. You can also submit articles to us at engage@art-rising.com, and we will continue to publish them. We want to share the experience with you all, and we hope that you will continue to share stories with us. But we have to become more focused in our approach and create the work that we want to make.


Watch. This. Space.

 

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