Nottinghamshire County Council is facing a three-year £154m budget challenge and has proposed savings of £83m for 2014/15.
These savings are wrapped up in 122 proposals which seem mostly to mean fewer people (800 jobs will go) trying to do the same amount of work as before and things such as [reducing] ‘the number of Older Adults living in long term care who are financially supported by the County Council’.
I’ve seen all sorts of reaction on twitter to this.
Oh no I haven’t.
I’ve only seen one reaction, an ‘outraged of The Park’ type reaction, to the proposal to cut – all of – the £94,500 grant the council gives to Nottingham Playhouse.
My view is that arts businesses are just that, businesses of a sort, and ..
1. Must now survive in a world of reduced or disappeared-completely subsidy.
2. Think more about what kind of art might fill the theatre (or gallery) with both more of the usual (older, whiter, middle-classer, whatever they say about diversity) audience and a broader-than-the-usual audience (everyone else, whatever they say about diversity).
3. Promote it better and encourage more people to come to see it because some of it is very good and worth seeing, but sometimes when I’ve been to the Playhouse it’s not been even nearly full, even for the very best of material (I’m thinking Bo Burnham in particular).
I think Nottingham Playhouse already does all of this pretty well and can survive a £95k cut because its work is of almost the highest quality and it deservedly sells-out some of its shows. It will just be a little bit tougher to get the balance right between the pantomime and The Caucasian Chalk Circle – commercially as well as artistically.
Life, and local government, is about choices. Only 47% of the Playhouse’s punters are County residents and when faced with cutting services for the most vulnerable in society it’s understandable that the County Council might feel that the arts can take a hit.
Look at the maths. The Playhouse has 770 seats. For argument (I don’t know for sure) let’s say there are shows on 220 nights a year. That’s 169,400 seat nights per year.
The proposed saving amounts to a ticket price increase of just 56p if every show sold out, only £1.12 if they average only half full.
Against the prevailing wisdom maybe, and with apologies to Nottingham’s twittering classes, I think it’s better that the punter enjoying a bit of art for fun of an evening has to reach a bit deeper into their pocket than that even more ‘older adults’ have to be denied care at home.