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Cultural Devastation for Birmingham




Image from Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP


The shocking-to-some news is in, that Birmingham City Council has announced cuts to all funding for culture projects and local-arts development, with the CBSO, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Birmingham Royal Ballet facing a 100% reduction to their support in the next financial year. The news which affects most of Birmingham’s major arts organisations hit hard yesterday. 


Here are the figures so far:


Birmingham International Dance Festival will lose its £350,000 funding and grants to regularly funded arts organisations will face 50% cuts this year and 100% next financial year.

They include:

  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

  • Birmingham REP Theatre

  • Birmingham Royal Ballet

  • IKON Gallery

  • Birmingham Opera Company

  • FABRIC

  • Sampad

  • Ex Cathedra

  • Legacy Centre of Excellence

  • B:Music


A Telegraph headline proclaimed that “The Government is presiding over the death of English Cultural life.”

The BBC state that “Budget cuts mean city faces 'cultural deprivation’.


We would be wise to bear in mind the chilling fact that Birmingham City Council assets worth £1.25bn will also be sold to repay a government bailout loan. Parks, buildings, cultural heritage, community assets will come under threat, with the Library of Birmingham, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, and large swathes of land and housing being listed as possible victims. It is our children who will pay the price of this deprivation in the future.


At B’Opera we have worked for seven years to ensure that children age 0-5, for whom there was little cultural provision when we started in 2017, have full and meaningful access to the arts. We do not see ourselves as an isolated organisation. We are part of a rich cultural landscape in Birmingham, and our work has made a huge contribution to creating engaged audiences for the companies affected by these cuts. We have heard from hundreds of families that B’Opera has nurtured a love of music, movement and theatre in them and their children, and that they now seek out music lessons and varied cultural experiences that they would not have otherwise. 


Each and every one of us needs to get clear on why arts and culture matter so very deeply. They are the heartbeat and expression of our common humanity. They help us to understand rather than distrust one another, healing division and bringing us together. They tell stories that need to be heard. They provide a container and means of expression for the bewildering messy complexity that is human life. Where social media can seek to reduce complexity to a combative and entrenched binary statement of right or wrong, art and cultural experiences bring us together and tease out nuance. They show us that we’re all flawed, all different, all vulnerable, and all we’ve got is one another, and art to illuminate the beauty, the ridiculousness, the humour, the ugliness, the everything of it all.


It's not an either or argument, but if you are more comfortable hearing from the Confederation of British Industry, they have condemned the sidelining of arts subjects in schools, stating that, “future global business success will be built upon creative design, originality, communication skills and an ability to think laterally.” To quote German’s former Culture Minister Bernd Neumann, arts funding is “an essential investment in the future of our society”


In the words of the playwright David Edgar, “five years ago, the Arts Council set out to produce a threefold definition of art’s purpose: to increase people’s capacity for life (helping them to “understand, interpret and adapt to the world around them”), to enrich their experience (bringing “colour, beauty, passion and intensity to lives”) and to provide a safe site in which they could build their skills, confidence and self-esteem. Other forms of endeavour do some of these things. Only art does all three.”


In Birmingham City Council’s own words, “ All age groups, individuals with disabilities and all ethnic groups will potentially be affected by cuts to arts grants and cultural project grants as the funding cuts will significantly decrease the number of projects and engagement availabilities on offer to the population at large.”


Don’t stand by and let this decimation of our collective cultural life continue. Please look for opportunities to support the arts whenever you can. You might be astonished at how they will nurture and support you in return in ways you can hardly imagine.


Zoë Challenor


You can sign up for our news here: www.bopera.co.uk

Pay forward a B'Opera ticket to a refugee family here: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=9FLUFQJFPTJH2


B'Opera create inclusive and interactive musical experiences for babies, toddlers and their grown-ups from all backgrounds.

B'Opera are regular Visiting Artists at Birmingham Children's Hospital, and partner on the Birmingham Early Years Music Consortium.




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