Sunday, 10 November 2013

Nottingham Playhouse to lose 100% of its grant from Notts County Council.

It gets personal when it's so close to home.

How much fun can it be? A Labour council cutting the arts?  Can anyone imagine that it comes easy? Inherited debts of £130 million.  Ludicrous and damaging cuts imposed by central government. Did they go into local politics to have to cut vital services to their own communities?  I believe that there are councillors across the UK who are having sleepless nights, for whom every cut to an old peoples' day centre, to a youth club for disadvantaged young people, to a library, to the budget for leisure, to the budget for education is another twist to the soul.

But I'm a playwright and Nottingham Playhouse has been essential to my career so this cut is personal for me too and I wonder if it skews my judgement.  £94000. That represents four jobs. It represents a source of matched funding. It isn't the end of the world, but the impact of the jobs being cut and the lack of matched funding the grant sustains will hurt and drastically diminish the service the Playhouse offers.

£94000. A fortune as far as I'm concerned but if you spread it around how far does it go?  Not far.  But if you add it to all the other slices that are likely to be taken off budgets across the county?  What's the answer?  But every area that is under threat will rightfully claim that their cut isn't justified.  If I was a councillor I'm not sure if I'd resign or stick my fingers in my ears and sign the budget cuts because I couldn't see any other way out. Perhaps there isn't another way out. Except maybe... defiance?

The arts earn money for the community. That's a given.  Arts subsidy generates income.  Slab Square, Nottingham Contemporary, the Sky Mirror, Rock City, the Theatre Royal, the Castle, Nottingham Playhouse, the Broadway, Mansfield Library, Southwell Minster these places are part of the fabric of Nottinghamshire. They make us proud.  Even if we don't visit them all that often they define us as people who live in an important county.   Take away any one of them and our sense of ourselves will be diminished.  But the arts can do more. A theatre does more.  It speaks for the time and its people and we are living in a time when we are hurting. The theatre speaks to that pain. Addresses it. Exposes it.  Dissects the causes.  Laughs at it.  Shows us how to be strong. Shows us what we could be.

It could be a play about individual courage on the main stage. Or of a journey taken in hope in the Neville Studio.  Or a story about how we deal with the loss of loved ones and the safety of the family home in a village school hall.  Our theatre opens us to the possibilities within ourselves.

But what does that mean when I know every organisation can make it's own impassioned plea.  So the thought occurs perhaps these cuts are the moment when all of us, collectively,  say, this is enough.

We reject all the cuts to any of the services we need and value.  We say to central government find another way because we're not all in this together, the majority of the country is taking all the misery for the benefit of the few. We need to give our council the courage to defy logic and say this isn't going to happen, we will trim our budget as we think fit and necessary according to the principles of good housekeeping, but we won't be a party to destroying the quality of life and culture in our county.

It's just a thought.