Email from councillor Neil Benny On Arts Cuts in Stirling

The following, frankly terrifying, email from coucillor Neil Benny to Kate Sankey was shared on the ChangingRoom Stirling Facebook page on Thursday 21st Feb 2013 as part of the discussion on proposed cuts to the arts in Stirling. I am hosting it here because Facebook posts can be difficult for people to link to with any perminance.

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"In terms of what you say about the arts and culture agenda in Stirling District, I do not think that the changes we will propose will have a huge impact, in fact when you get beyond the headlines they will actually help. The changing room gallery is not particularly well attended and the promotion of new and developing talent is far better tackled through supporting Creative Stirling to achieve their ends (hopefully doing something with the old town jail). The Council's promotion of it's own gallery leads to independent operators being crowded out.

The Tolbooth reduction is a 10% reduction in the net overall budget.

That is to say an expectation of reduced losses from £520k to £470k per year. This will be for the tolbooth management to manage, but the way that the centre has been run as a venue cannot continue in the long term - the simple fact is that we cannot afford it. The cultural programme must become more viable at the tolbooth and in the Albert Halls.

The outreach and workshop work that is undertaken by cultural services is not inherently linked to the tolbooth and could easily be provided in other spaces. In a district the size of Stirling it is imperative that our cultural offering is available to as wide a geography as possible. 

Personally I think that the combined running costs of our arts venues holds back the amount we can invest in the arts agenda. I have said a few times that the cultural agenda should be run by artists, although funded by the council and this cannot be achieved with so much of our budget wrapped up in bricks and mortar. It is worthwhile pointing out that Stirling Council spends quite significant amounts of money on culture, but because our venues are so expensive to run it precludes funding of the kind of developments like the open studios. The way that we have a vested interest in promoting our own galleries and performance spaces also mean that we are less open to the idea of promoting other venues. 

I am trying to change this through the cultural review, which is mentioned elsewhere in the budget resolution. 

I hope this gives a bit of background to my thinking behind the budget resolution and proposals for change in the culture budget. I am always aware of the signals that are being sent out, but I also believe that fear of sending out bad signals is stopping us from having the kind of cultural offering in Stirling that we should have. It's not about Council run buildings absorbing cash, but it should be about artists. "

Stirling Councillor Neil Benny, 21/02/13
(Email: / Tel: 0845 277 7000

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Please visit the Changing Room page on Facebook for further info / discussion. Kirsteen Macdonald has also set up a Stirling Council Meeting event page which has details and comment on the 21/02/13 meeting in Stirling. Comments can also be left below or on Twitter using the hashtag: #stirlingarts.

My feelings on the matter.