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Campaign for Regional Arts Funding

FIGHT AGAINST BRISTOL ARTS CUTS

2014-03-27 Equity members celebrate victory outside of Bristol City Hall - Local Funding - HUGH BURDEN photographer

Over the weekend of the 15th and 16th February Bristol & West General Branch members became aware that Sean Beynon, Labour Councillor for Southville, had proposed a budget amendment to review the funding of Key Arts Providers in Bristol with a view to staving off a proposed cut to the city's Crime Reduction Projects. In effect this represented a cut of £100k in arts funding from a £1.1 million budget (just under 10%) and was despite the fact that in 2013 the Branch had received a letter from the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson's office saying 'The City Council acknowledges the importance of the cultural and creative sectors to the economic and social viability of the city and for this reason has determined to maintain its funding commitments to KAPs (Key Arts Providers), including allowing inflationary increases year on year.'

Gerard Cooke (Branch Chair) and Sarah Buckland (Branch Secretary) quickly mobilised Branch members and other Bristol Arts Practitioners to call on their elected representatives to oppose the cuts and to make a commitment to the arts. Branch members were encouraged to email local Councillors, make contact with Councillors via Twitter and a Facebook group 'Arts Cuts in Bristol 2014' was set up.

The pressure from the Branch and from Equity members over the weekend was considerable and on 18th February confirmation was received from Sean Beynon that the Labour Group had withdrawn the amendment. This was excellent news and testament to the power of local organising and Equity staff and members working together. To see how this story was reported in the local news - www.bristol247.com/2014/02/17/anger-as-10-bristol-arts-budget-cut-is-proposed-62282 and national press - www.thestage.co.uk/news/2014/02/bristol-arts-groups-avoid-10-funding-cut-following-campaign-victory

These events were also covered in the Summer 2014 issue of Equity magazine which can be found online here: www.equity.org.uk/documents/equity-magazine-summer-2014and further discussions will take place within Bristol as to how the arts funding can be safeguarded going forward.

The Equity magazine article reads:

EQUITY ACTIVISTS IN BRISTOL have achieved a significant victory by reversing their local council’s intention to reduce the arts budget by 10%.
The arts groups that could have been affected by the cut, which amounted to £100,000, included Bristol Old Vic Theatre, the Tobacco Factory Theatre and the Travelling Light Theatre Company.
Sarah Buckland, secretary for the Bristol and West general branch, said: “We are very pleased with this result and we’ve received some positive messages from councillors 
who were glad that the pressure has been on to fight the proposal.
“To divert £100,000 away from arts to something else seemed like a very cynical, political move. although our key arts providers seem safe, if you take away a bunch of money 
it can be dangerous on lots of levels. if you start taking local authority money away they will cut it again next year and then Arts Council England might stop funding.”
Some of the union activists involved in the lobbying of Bristol politicians are pictured above and are members of the local equity branches. they are (from left to right): Susie 
Fugle, Mary Lane, Gerard Cooke, Cheryl Rowlands, Sandra Scott, Philippa Howard and Sheila Hannon (photo: HUGH BURDEN)