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Some of our region's cultural leaders share their views on the general election and the arts

PUBLISHED: 18:47 03 June 2017 | UPDATED: 19:09 03 June 2017

Stephen Crocker, the CEO at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Stephen Crocker, the CEO at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Arts correspondent Emma Knights asks some of our region's cultural leaders to share their views about the key issues for their sector in the June 8 general election.

Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Antony Kelly.Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Antony Kelly.

Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive

Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker said it was important the new government appreciated the value and impact of the arts.

“The Culture White Paper (published last year) was a very important moment for the arts sector. It was the first time in more than 50 years we have seen a cross-governmental statement of support and future vision for arts and culture. Whatever shape our next government takes, I think an ongoing commitment to placing arts and culture at the centre of government policy and spending is an imperative,” he said.

“I would like to see the ambition and vision in the White Paper around education, access, skills development and place-making taken forward.

He added: “Clearly, one of the biggest challenges for the next government will be Brexit and I also think that the specific impact of Brexit upon arts and culture in the UK must be on the agenda. Free international artistic collaboration, experimentation and exchange is vital to a vibrant UK arts economy and to ensuring that UK artists and arts organisations can compete on a world stage.”

Professor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts

Professor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts.
Photo: Owen RichardsProfessor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts. Photo: Owen Richards

Professor John Last, Norwich University of the Arts vice-chancellor, said funding was a key issue and it was especially important projects focussing on people who would otherwise not be able to access the arts were supported financially.

“We hope the new government will continue to support the Arts Council to deliver great arts for all and in particular fund projects for those who do not currently have access to arts provision.”

He said it was important the new government ensures school pupils have more access to the arts for the long-term future of the creative industries.

“Our major concern is the way the EBACC and the new school curriculum is restricting access to arts subjects at GSCE and A level. We are seeing fewer pupils choosing arts subjects in schools and in the mid to long term this risks the UK losing its pre-eminence in the creative industries - which contribute £84bn to our economy each year.”

Joe Mackintosh, chief executive of SeaChange Arts

Joe Mackintosh is chief executive of Great Yarmouth-based SeaChange Arts, an independent arts development charity which aims to create opportunities for artists and the local community through circus and street arts projects and events.

Joe Mackintosh, chief executive of SeaChange Arts.
Photo: SeaChange Arts.Joe Mackintosh, chief executive of SeaChange Arts. Photo: SeaChange Arts.

He said: “In the last Comprehensive Spending Review, the arts were singled out for their incredible return on investment for the country. Culture continues to be a major success in export terms, and the arts avoided a cut because of this. We’d hope that, whichever party is in power, culture continues to be recognised as an area of strong export growth and is supported accordingly.”

He added: “The impact of local authorities’ budget cuts have had the biggest effect on the arts. We hope these cuts plateau soon before non-statutory services are hugely diminished. It’s also important that the commitment to young people accessing culture is strengthened.”

Adam Taylor, The Garage’s executive director

Adam Taylor, executive director at The Garage, a performing arts venue with a focus on young people, said it was a shame 16 and 17-year-olds could not vote.

“I think we would have seen a galvanised youth voice,” he said.

The Garage does not receive core funding from the Arts Council, but Mr Taylor said despite this he wanted to see a long-term commitment from the treasury to the Art Council because it gives confidence in the whole sector.

Executive director Adam Taylor at the Garage, who has announced their exciting future plans. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYExecutive director Adam Taylor at the Garage, who has announced their exciting future plans. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He added: “Directly for us, we are funded quite a lot by trusts and foundations which are endowed which means we are looking for a strong economy that yields.”

He also wants to see a focus on the arts and wellbeing and community.

“I’d really like to see a government that understands art doesn’t just mean going to see a show. There are great projects, like Creative Arts East’s Our Day Out around dementia, which can have a massive lasting legacy.”

Debbie Thompson, theatre director of Sheringham Little Theatre

Debbie Thompson, theatre director of Sheringham Little Theatre, said funding and a focus on arts in education were key.

“It’s funding. They need to see the bigger picture and how important the arts are to everybody. I’m very interested in arts for wellbeing. The arts are important for communities, and particularly in rural areas help glue the community together.”

Original. Sheringham Little Theatre theatre director Debbie Thompson.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYOriginal. Sheringham Little Theatre theatre director Debbie Thompson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

She has seen the theatre go from being 60pc funded by local authority grants to 7pc.

“We are being as business-like as we can and making all the income streams really work but that 7pc is vital genuinely and if we lost that I do not know what else I could do to replace it.”

About education, she added: “I would really want a government that values arts in education. I hate to see the way drama and music and art is being stripped out of schools. It has a knock on effect for everything, for people’s engagement with culture in the future.”

Chris Gribble, Writers’ Centre Norwich chief executive

Chris Gribble, Writers’ Centre Norwich chief executive, said joined up thinking about the value of the arts was crucial.

“In the last five years [political] parties have started to link arts and culture to how it benefits the economy, wider social and community benefit, education and creative industries. That hasn’t happened in the past,” he said, adding that funding was also key.

Chris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYChris Gribble, chief executive of Writers' Centre Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“It’s joined up thinking around how culture and the arts impact lives from people’s earliest years to their latest years, clear thinking about all the benefits that come from culture and the arts and talking about it in terms of investment rather than subsidy. Every time the government supports, for example, a car factory, it’s called investment, every time it’s about the arts it’s called subsidy, but we have economic impact as well as everyone else. We are really important for the economy. We just want to be taken seriously across the full range of work that we do by the political parties, we want to have a place at the table when the decisions are being made.”

SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF WHAT THE PARTIES’ MANIFESTOS SAY ABOUT THE ARTS

LABOUR: £1bn Cultural Capital Fund; keep free entry to museums, invest in museums and heritage; end cuts to local authority budget to support provision of libraries, museums and galleries; £160m each year for cultural projects in schools; ensure arts not sidelined in secondary education; creative careers advice campaign; support for small music venues; widen reach of Government Art Collection.

CONSERVATIVE: more support for arts outside London; keep free entry to national museums and galleries’ permanent collections; new cultural development fund; Great Exhibition of the North 2018; support a city to bid to host 2022 Commonwealth Games; support development of new Edinburgh Concert Hall; curriculum fund to encourage institutions to help develop school materials.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: protect arts on school curriculum; invest in our cultural capital; keep free access to national museums and galleries; protect National Lottery arts and sport funding; set up creative enterprise zones to grow cultural output across the UK; protect live music venues.

Election artist Cornelia Parker, courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London.
Photo: Lily McMillanElection artist Cornelia Parker, courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. Photo: Lily McMillan

GREEN: support start-ups and creative enterprises to provide opportunities for young people to be creative and innovative.

UKIP: create coastal enterprise zones and a new coastal towns taskforce will raise funding for new arts and heritage facilities.

ELECTION ARTIST

Cornelia Parker has been named as the official artist for the 2017 General Election, and people can see an example of one of her previous works at Norwich University of the Arts.

Called Shared Fate, the work is the foyer of the university’s Francis House building, in Redwell Street. It was created in 1998, a year after Ms Parker was nominated for the Turner Prize, and features everyday objects with a ‘shared fate’ of all being cut in half by the guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette.

As election artist, Ms Parker, who was selected by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, will create an artwork which will become part of the Parliamentary Art Collection.

Shared Fate by Cornelia Parker is on long-term loan to Norwich University of the Arts from a private lender.
It is currently on display at NUA's foyer in Francis House, Redwell Street, Norwich. 
Photo: Norwich University of the Arts.Shared Fate by Cornelia Parker is on long-term loan to Norwich University of the Arts from a private lender. It is currently on display at NUA's foyer in Francis House, Redwell Street, Norwich. Photo: Norwich University of the Arts.

Me Parker, who recently delivered a talk to NUA students, said: “We live in scary but exhilarating times. The whole world order seems to be changing. As an artist, I feel honoured to have been invited to respond to such an important election. With all its challenging issues and complexity, it is an event that I’m excited to engage with and I look forward to sharing my finished work.”

Ms Parker will post images on Instagram as ‘electionartist2017’ throughout the campaign.

The 2017 general election is the fifth to be recorded by an official Election Artist. Previous artists were Adam Dant (2015), Simon Roberts (2010), David Godbold (2005) and Jonathan Yeo (2001).

Shared Fate, which is on long-term loan to NUA from a private lender, will also be displayed in the exhibition In Quotes: Collage and Assemblage in Contemporary Art at NUA’s East Gallery from August 30.

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