Today sees the first debate in the House on the importance of Culture and the Creative Industries for nearly 5 years. It’s meant to be a cross party motion but as its being hosted by Labour the majority of signatures are from Labour MP.
Hopefully the debate will be much more, genuinely cross party!
Still it will be interesting to see what gets discussed.
You can read the full debate here:–
This is my personal letter to local MP – Bernard Jenkin – asking him to attend and contribute to the debate:-
Dear Mr Jenkin,
I understand there is an Early Day Motion (191) due to be discussed in the House this Wednesday. As one of your constituents, as well as the General Manager of Eastern Angles I hope it is a motion that you feel able to support, and a debate that you would be able to attend and contribute to.
As you know Eastern Angles tour throughout the East of England – bringing the rich cultural heritage of our unique and very special region to theatrical life. Our rural delivery model, which is central to our work and ethos, means that we can perform in places that other organisations simply cannot reach. So we are as likely to be found playing in village halls in Wrabness, Harwich, Manningtree, Bradfied, Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe as we are in the supposed bright lights of Edinburgh and London. Our local promoters regularly tell us how important our annual visits are – last year alone the company played in 45 different community venues across East Anglia – giving 208 performances to over 21,300 people.
Of course Eastern Angles are just one element of a rich tapestry of cultural provision in the immediate locality of Wivenhoe and, indeed, your constituency. In Colchester the recently revitalised Mercury is garnering national attention for its productions of The Hired Man and History Boys. Over at First Site Sophie von Hellermann’s Elephant in the Room fluidly captures the history of the region as well as exploiting perfectly world class architect Rafael Vinoly’s unusual gallery spaces. Over the road from First Site Colchester’s jewel – The Castle – is undergoing an exciting re fit. The Arts Centre is simply a gem – always challenging, often surreal, sometimes missing the mark dreadfully but more often than not delivering extraordinary nights. This week, inspired by the work of Mark Leigh, local theatre company Real Circumstance open their poignant drama Our Share of Tomorrow in London whilst 15 Queen Street remains a hotbed of new cultural businesses.
The Ipswich scene is no less exciting. We’ve just said goodbye to a scintillating Pulse Festival and are about to say hello to Ip Art – opening with The Iron Man by Graeae (whose inspirational artistic director Jenny Sealey co directed the Para-Olympic games opening ceremony). Robert Pacitti Company recently completed a very special film tribute to the region in On Landguard Point and brought the simply extraordinary Spill Festival to the town last November. That’s without mentioning the on-going work of the likes of New Wolsey, Dance East and Red Rose Chain.
As the Olympics clearly demonstrated a thriving culture sector is a strong reflection both on the region and the nation itself. The strength of what is happening in Colchester, Ipswich and the areas in between is in no small part due to sustained government investment. Investment that recognises cultural events bring communities (including rural communities) together and make our lives richer. Investment that recognises, too, the cultural sector creates economic growth and jobs (contributing 6% of GDP, employing 2million people annually) and is one of UK PLC’s fastest growing .
And all this is achieved at a relatively low price – currently 14p per person per week; equal to less than 0.05 per cent of total government spending.
Eastern Angles, like other arts organisations in the region, is working hard to ensure its resilience and to broaden its income base in these difficult economic times. Our individual donation scheme – Copperfield – is going from strength to strength. With the support of Catalyst investment (an initiative driven by Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP during his time at DCMS) we are one year into a three year fundraising campaign which includes telephone fundraising, special events, increased trust and foundation work and, most recently, my own sponsored bike ride of 400 miles through 30 years of Eastern Angles venues and stories. But to ensure the success of these initiatives your continued support is more important than ever!
It is for these reasons I’d ask you to speak to the motion – particularly as it notes the central role art and culture has at the heart of local communities (and I would happily provide you with plenty case study evidence of this from Eastern Angles work) and its call for monitoring the (crippling*) effect of local authority cuts on culture as well as the need to ensure the arts and creative industries are supported in all regions of the country, not just London.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you!
* Eastern Angles have seen a 39% reduction in its real terms local authority investment over the last 5 years.