Tuesday 14th April 2015

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Artsin’s coverage of the 2010 general election

Arts in Leicester magazine gave some coverage to the general election of 2010.  We dug back into our archives to see what we published.

Our magazine published an editorial on 7th April 2010 in which we wrote:

There has never been a better time to ask questions about the arts of our political leaders. Between now and 6th May, we have a great opportunity to fly the flag for the arts, both nationally and in Leicester/shire. The politicians want our votes. As fans, followers and consumers of the arts and as artists, we want their support. So, let’s ask them ‘what are they going to do for us’? Us, the people who produce arts and entertainment and the people who benefit from the what artists give to our society and our community.

Arts in Leicestershire intends to ask questions at the hustings. We want to know, from the main political parties, how they see the arts, what policies they would implement, what support they would give and what commitments they would see their party entering into, where the arts is concerned.

Why is the arts important? In our view the arts is more than just the icing on the cake; it is much more than a luxury. Arts and entertainments of all kinds benefit the economy, the community and society. Art is not a sideline or a marginal add-on: art is something much closer to the well-being and soul of society and to the life blood of our local community

We urge both artists and the public who benefit from the arts, to ask questions of the candidates. Ask them to think about the arts. Ask them to say what their policies are for the arts.

Our material about the election of 2010 was published in the blog associated with the magazine

The UK General Election has been announced for 6th May 2010.

Now is a good time to ask questions about how the political parties intend to support the arts. The hustings are a time when people who are concerned about the arts ask the political parties and their candidates about their policies for the arts.

Here are some questions we would like to ask:

(1) What support will your party give to the arts?

(2) Does your party have a policy about the arts and in particular the role that the arts can play in the economy and in developing social cohesion?

(3) Where does the arts stand in your general system of priorities?

(4) Who do you think benefits from the arts in the community? What benefits does the arts confer on various segments of our community?

(5) Will your party continue support for the Arts Council? How will your party support the Arts Council?

(6) How do you think the arts can be enabled to become more diverse and inclusive?

These are general questions that apply nationally. No doubt there are many more more questions that could be asked and hopefully readers will add their comments.

In particular, we would like to receive comments from people who have asked questions about the arts and what replies candidates have given.

We will also want to ask those questions to candidates standing in Leicester and Leicestershire.

In the blog, we said:

Guardian Blogger Jonathan Jones argues that no one would decide which party to vote for, based on their policy for the arts, alone. Well obviously. But the point is that there will be many people who are undecided which way they will vote. There are many substantial issues which will decide the outcome of the election and many issues that each voter might want to address when deciding where to place their tick. My line is that the arts is not the “cultural comforts of the middle class” but something that is the heritage of all people, in whatever class they think they are.

But there are many more crucial arts issues than great paintings or funding for the BBC. The arts contributes to health and social cohesion, as we have covered in the main body of Arts in Leicestershire. Community Arts projects have helped thousands of disadvantaged people in Leicestershire alone. When we think “arts” we will hopefully see the wider picture and not just see paintings in the National Gallery or costume dramas on the telly.

When it comes to schools, jobs and health, artists have contributed a great deal. The interest group for arts activities in the general public. Everyone benefits in some way or other.

We also reported a news item:


Arts Council Chief Executive Alan Davey urges local authorities to maintain their investment in the arts. He argues that the arts confers economic and social benefits and can play an ever greater roles in the success of local communities.

Even though public finance will be under great pressure, the arts can deliver great benefit, he argued, in a recent speech. He pointed to examples of the arts contributing a great deal to local economies.

Later that year we ran the following editorial

Does the arts give value for money?

Do we get value for money from the Arts? When times are hard and people do not have much to spend, it is more important than ever that the arts are seen to be good value for money.

During the great depression of the 1920s, the one thing that bucked the trend was entertainment. People escaped from the harsh realities of every day life by going to clubs, pubs and music halls, where they could enjoy themselves and find some relief from the tribulations of worklessness, poverty and low incomes.

People haven’t changed that much. They still have a need for entertainment. What has changed of course is how they get it. Even in the poorest homes in this city you will find television sets. If people want to get out of the house and do something a bit more social, there are numerous opportunities available to suit all tastes.

Is art just for posh people? Well fine art or classical art might be but here at Artsin we take a different approach. Our pages reflect an overlap between the arts and entertainment. We do cover fine art but we tend to cover art as entertainment.

We have pages on comedy, popular dance, community arts, music for the masses, festivals and our visual arts pages cover films, photography, video and digital. We might even cover magic, fashion, poetry and children’s books. We take a wider view of the arts than most comparable magazines. We try to see the bigger picture.

If you had £20 to spend on a night out, what would you do? See a band? Go for a laugh at a comedy gig? See a show at Curve or De Montfort Hall? You could do any of these things on a budget of £20. If you’re unemployed, over 60 or under 16, the chances are you will get a discount ticket. There are also quite a few free events, particularly if you are a fan of live music.

if you want posh art and you can afford it, you have plenty of choices. What’s important here is that the arts, as we see them, are available to everyone. If you are from the Asian community, you have lots going on from Bangra to Bollywood. If you are from the African or Caribbean communities, you will not be short of things to do. If you are Polish or from one of the many European groups settled in Leicester, there will be events specific to your cultural interests.

This vibrant, multi-cultural city and county offers its peoples a huge variety of choice. Events of all kinds go on all year round, almost every day of the week, providing something for everyone, no matter what their age, ethnicity, orientation or health status. This is what makes Leicester a great place to live.

We get asked whether arts (broadly defined) should be subsidised from the public purse. We get asked specially whether the ‘big’ venues, like the De Montfort Hall, Curve or the Phoenix should be subsidised by rate payers.

We say no. There is no need for arts and entertainment venues to be subsidised by tax payers, especially in these financially stringent times. Generally speaking the arts and entertainment should be self-financing.

There is a case for investing in new artists, minority arts, the leading edge of creativity, improvements to access for people with disabilities, projects reaching out to people with mental or physical health issues, the very old, the very poor, the young … certain specific arts activities should qualify for financial support, where it is difficult or impossible to expect them to be self-financing.

A lot of work is going on to use the arts as a medium for reaching out to disadvantaged or excluded groups. That support should come primarily from charities but there is some case for justifying support from local authorities or the NHS were there are proven benefits both to the target groups (old, young, ill, excluded, at risk) and the public. The well being of individuals, groups and communities can be enhanced by the arts and there is a strong case for supporting these projects with money and other resources.

We do not see a case for justifying public expenditure on ‘big’ venues. Multi-million pound venues should be self-financing and not underwritten by the tax payer. That is not say that the buildings concerned should be in the private sector. We have already argued the case, in a previous editorial, for social enterprise approaches to running arts venues.

There is probably a stronger case for supporting the smaller venues that are vital to the life of a local community, where building and operating costs are difficult to sustain. Where the benefit to a community is worth every penny of the relatively small budgets they work to.

Big venues should be able pay for themselves. If they can’t then they are doing some wrong.

Art and entertainment bring millions of pounds into the local economy. More and more people are coming to Leicester and the county to enjoy the many festivals, events, shows and occasions that are on offer here. Those people contribute to local businesses, hotels, restaurants, bars, taxis … leisure is a vital part of the local economy.

Should local politicians meddle in the arts? asks Robert Mandell in a recent article in This is Leicestershire. In an outspoken and forthright piece, the one-time music Director of the Haymarket Theatre, argues that Leicester City Council should stop meddling in the arts. The debate continues as to how to find a sustainable future for the Hall that does not involve public subsidy. Politicians are divided on the issue of whether privatisation is the answer.

The City Council’s cabinet is to consider a “draft De Montfort Hall business plan”, according to The Leicester Mercury. Why? Do politicians think they can run an arts venue? Apparently they do and this lies at the root of the problems facing the DMH, and Curve. If the Council has any control over the future of these venues, there is only thing it should be doing: making sure that properly qualified and experienced managers are running them and then leaving them to get on with their jobs.

All these ‘big’ venues play a vital role in our local arts scene but none of them if big enough to compete with the high capacity theatres in Birmingham and Nottingham. Leicester politicians have only so far succeeded in putting relatively small capacity venues into the city. In consequence, Leicester fans have to travel outside of the city to get spend their ticket pounds elsewhere.
What Leicester needs is an arena level venue that can offer local people a local choice for big name acts and which could bring much needed revenue into the local economy. Not much chance of getting that in the present climate but as a long term goal, that is, in our view, a serious project.

[Arts in Leicester magazine,  25th November 2010]

See also:

Our lead article on the 2015 elections

Election 15 news

2011: Labour’s policy on the arts


logo election 2015 twitter

In the run-up to 7th May, Artsin’s editor will be posting on his Twitter account.