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Bath Chronicle - - OPINION - Stephen Sumner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter @stephen­sum­ner15 | 07741 295876 stephen.sumner@reach­plc.com

The arts bring hope, joy and love to peo­ple – how we need it right now

Cre­ativ­ity Works tweet­ing about news of coun­cil cuts to arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vices

A ser­vice sup­port­ing the arts is to be closed in the lat­est round of coun­cil cuts. The arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vice is one of sev­eral de­part­ments that will ei­ther be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced or stop com­pletely be­cause of “ex­cep­tional” pres­sures on Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil’s bud­get. Artists have praised the ser­vice for bro­ker­ing re­la­tion­ships, help­ing them se­cure vi­tal fund­ing and de­vel­op­ing a thriv­ing cul­tural scene in Bath since it formed in 1996 and con­demned the de­ci­sion to close it. Cre­ativ­ity Works tweeted: “We are ab­so­lutely gut­ted, fu­ri­ous and ashamed at this naïve and short­sighted ac­tion by the coun­cil that will leave our area a poorer place to live. “The arts bring hope, joy and love to peo­ple – how we need it right now.” Katy Noakes, the in­terim creative pro­ducer at Bath Dance, said: “Bath has great her­itage but the work of artists is what breathes new life and sto­ries into them and cre­ates the spec­ta­cles and events that draw new au­di­ences. With­out lo­cal au­thor­ity sup­port it be­comes hard for lo­cal artists and com­pa­nies to per­suade other fun­ders such as Arts Coun­cil Eng­land that they will get value for money in­vest­ment. “Lo­cal au­thor­ity buy-in and sup­port-in-kind as­sures fun­ders that in­vest­ment will be both strate­gic and well spent.” The arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vice will be­gin a phased clo­sure from De­cem­ber 3 and shut com­pletely on Fe­bru­ary 8, with the loss of two jobs. Writ­ing on­line, a spokesper­son for the ser­vice said: “The coun­cil is fac­ing ex­cep­tional chal­lenges and pres­sures to its bud­get, with a sav­ings tar­get of £16mil­lion to be met by 2020. “The arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vice is one of sev­eral coun­cil ser­vices that will ei­ther be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced, or cease com­pletely in order to make the sav­ings nec­es­sary to meet this tar­get. “We are proud of what the ser­vice has achieved and of the ben­e­fit to res­i­dents cre­ated by the many or­gan­i­sa­tions, fes­ti­vals and projects that the coun­cil has sup­ported since the in­cep­tion of the ser­vice in 1996. “We would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to thank ev­ery­one with whom we have worked closely and suc­cess­fully over the years.” A Kil­ter The­atre spokesper­son said the arts de­vel­op­ment team mem­bers were the “un­sung heroes” of Bath’s arts scene, adding: “We’ve had the chance to col­lab­o­rate with lo­cal peo­ple/groups and bring free unique the­atre art to var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties, young and old, who may never have had the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess the­atre be­fore. In some small way we have changed lives. “We’re very grate­ful to the arts de­vel­op­ment team for all their sup­port over the years.” The­atre Bath di­rec­tor Luke John Em­mett said the ser­vice’s knowl­edge, time and pa­tience had been vi­tal in en­sur­ing a thriv­ing cul­tural scene in Bath, and its clo­sure would leave a “mas­sive skills gap” in the coun­cil. “The coun­cil events team cur­rently runs up­wards of 250 events per year,” he said. “They will be down to a core team of three to deal with all of those events which gen­er­ate in­come for the city. The arts de­vel­op­ment team helped spread work­load. “With­out it, it will cre­ate ex­tra pres­sure for events of­fi­cers and in­evitably – as we’ve seen re­cently – mis­takes will be made.” Bath MP Wera Hob­house, a for­mer pro­fes­sional artist, said: “Sadly, it’s the same story across the coun­try. The arts have been proven time and time again to pos­i­tively con­trib­ute to lives, com­mu­ni­ties, cities and the econ­omy – yet they have suf­fered mas­sive cuts im­posed by cen­tral govern­ment. “This fund­ing is vi­tal to en­sure the arts doesn’t just be­come the pre­serve of the wealthy and the priv­i­leged. The arts are for ev­ery­one, not to men­tion the sig­nif­i­cant role they can have in help­ing peo­ple over­come ad­verse ex­pe­ri­ences, deal with men­tal health is­sues, and bat­tle ad­dic­tion. “Theresa May has said that aus­ter­ity is com­ing to an end, but ob­vi­ously she hasn’t told the arts world.” A B&NES Coun­cil spokesper­son said: “The coun­cil has fi­nan­cially sup­ported many arts or­gan­i­sa­tions over the years. “As part of the bud­get agreed by coun­cil this Fe­bru­ary the de­ci­sion was made to end the arts de­vel­op­ment ser­vice, sav­ing £78,000 with the loss of two posts. “It is ad­vis­ing small arts busi­nesses they can get busi­ness ad­vice from the sup­port ser­vice Cool Ven­tures.”

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