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Stormy Weather

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Perhaps it is the weather, rather gray and dull, but there is an air of despondency amongst many people working in the arts. They know that cuts will happen and they also know that there is not a lot of fat in the arts budgets. I am not being a drama queen when I say that theatres will close, fewer productions will be seen, jobs will be lost and our cultural life will decline, not a terminal decline but a very debilitating one.

I see the petitions and the protests and half-heartedly sign up. Half-heartedly not because of a lack of passion for public funding of the arts but because I fear the deed is done or soon will be. The UK government is on a destructive collision course, from which they will not deviate. And I don’t think the arts will get much truck from coalition back-benchers, who may just influence some of the other funding decisions. The situation in Scotland is more complicated because the funding comes from the Scottish government, who may be a little more predisposed towards the arts. However, their budgets will be under enormous pressure when the UK cuts come into force.
Many theatres in Scotland receive a goodly chunk of funding from the local authority and that is where the unforgiving double-bladed axe will hit hard and brutally. We have already seen theatres like the Byre in St Andrews move from being an excellent producing house to a receiving venue. Perth Theatre has had to cut back drastically the number of in-house productions and Pitlochry has seen its funding cut back. No matter what is claimed, the National Theatre of Scotland has soaked up a lot of money and it hasn’t filled the gap in some of those locations. I am a supporter of NTS but it should have been in addition to and not instead of.

The coming year will, I am sure, see lots of bad news heading our way and there is an inevitability about it all and that is what is getting people down. I said that I wasn’t a drama queen but what the hell – in the words of Gloria Gaynor, we will survive but (thanks Bette), fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.


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