The following is a letter from artist Peter Russell concerning the February 2013 cuts to Stirling's arts and culture funding. Like with several other bits and pieces on the matter, I'm hosting it here to give it a more permanent and easy to link to home than on Facebook. For more information, visit the Stirling Arts & Culture Cuts Resources page.
"For supporters of the arts, Thursday's vote in the bear-pit council chamber was acutely disappointing, with the Benny-McCord accord prevailing in their vicious cuts.
The axing of both the visual arts development officer's job, and professional support for The Changing Room, particularly, seems parochial and myopic. That this follows the demise of the Tolbooth's internationally feted Le Weekend experimental music festival after 13 years of joyous connection to Tokyo, New York, Europe, Australia, even, means that Stirling's City status appears more fraudulent than ever.
What is offensive about the closure is that impact is assessed as low both in terms of budget and people affected. A further documentation of Economy & Finance (and indeed Culture) Portfolio holder Cllr Benny's justifying criteria, the underpinning argument the public deserves to see, is somehow withheld. He describes his actions as "transparent".
While the insult "philistine" hurled at Benny on Thursday is distasteful, he shows a distressing ignorance of the fostering of artistic vigour. His impact assessment shows no appreciation of quality, the painstaking support for young artists and musicians through mentoring, volunteer positions, and the overseeing of exhibitions and performances, together with the fulfilment of a role presenting local, national and international practicioners which inspires all levels of activity.
We are told that Benny has written to Kate Sankey, who is herself an enabler of the arts, "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." Yet Creative Stirling, a valuable group working in a different area of enterprise, were not even consulted by him. Benny did not, apparently, consult any of the professional members of the artistic community in coming to his decision. So how did he weigh up his criteria?
His justification concludes with "... 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 is not about Council run buildings absorbing cash, but it should be about artists." which could be construed to offer some hope, yet has the language of diktat.
More recent Twitter-feed has located Cllr Benny backtracking on the related issue of funding withdrawn from Artlink Central, indicating that there will be a "fund" for groups like Artlink, and that he would not have proposed the cuts had he known how much of a contribution they make!
His authority for proposing the cuts is thereby blown sky-high. Instead we have a lazy, sloppy, deeply prejudiced and malign attack on what he has clearly neither understood nor sought to inform himself. This is not a fit person to be in charge of the Economy, Finance & Culture Portfolio.
How the official delegations to "City of Stirling" will grin sneeringly at the pretensions of our local authority without a clue on cultural matters. How they will mock the lack of vibrancy in our arts, the artists having fled to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Is this the future the people of Stirling really wish.
Yours in astonishment and deep sadness,
Back to the Stirling Arts & Culture Cuts page.