Dear Terrorists #WeStandTogether

For Manchester x

Dear Terrorists,

You can never win.
Your hate, anger, rage against us is in vain,
You try and then you try again.
But each time we come back stronger and more humane.

Your acts are nothing more than cowardly deeds,
The aim – to plant the hatred seeds of doubts and fears,
Reduce the country and the people to tears.
But every time you rear your ugly heads,
We meet you face on with love instead, and hope and togetherness.
Class, religion and politics get cast aside,
People of all faiths, religions and beliefs side-by-side,
Together we come and in plain sight we stand, not hide,

We do not cower and we will not fear you,
We are humanity, we are one, we belong to something much bigger than you.
And what you fail to grasp,
And what you fail to see,
Is your actions bring out the greatest and best of humanity,
A stronger, more loving society.

Your terror and fear are short lived,
We respond with the love we all have to give.
From the angel of Manchester rescuing fifty kids,
To everyday folk offering up their beds.
Taxi drivers giving rides for free,
Thousands giving blood and hospitality.
All religions, ages, races and creeds.
To the man without a house or home,
Who lept to his feet and raced into danger,
Pulled people out, risked his lives for strangers.
For someone who has nothing to give so much, so freely,
And expect nothing back because “it’s just what anyone would have done”.
Emergency services, our police, paramedics, firefighters and nurses,
To venue staff, who reacted with calm and saved many more people from coming to harm.
Small random acts of kindness – hotels throwing open their doors,
People offering food and sandwiches,
Buskers playing music & singing songs of hope.

The aftermath, a vigil attended by thousands in solidarity,
United as one, a whole,
And that’s the reality.
Although we shed tears, come together and grieve,
And our love and thoughts go to all of the families,
You can never accomplish what you hope to achieve.
Their memories live on, in our hearts, spirits and minds they will never leave.
The fear you seek to create bonds us closer and stronger.
And the one thing we all know to be true,
Our lives will not stop just because of you.
We rise above hate, above racism, religion, above blame.
We see you for what you are and refuse to call you by name.

Dear Terrorists,
You have not won, for tonight the world is united and we all stand as one.

  

  

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Have a look at some of the amazing acts of kindness happening in and around Manchester today:

http://bzfd.it/2rdwkpl

Why Save The Arts? Is Bath Council about to kill the goose that lays its golden eggs?

I wrote this as a very ranty blog post last night – which isn’t necessarily useful for you but it certainly helped me to put things in perspective. Below is the new version which I hope will be much more useful and productive.

Bath and North East Somerset Council have proposed to cut all arts grants as part of their bid to save £49 million over the next few years. The arts and the library were  at the top of the chopping block, whilst foolhardy schemes to decimate a local meadow and build a Park and Ride (against all the evidence to the contrary) to the cost of £11 million pounds remain a priority. And this is just the first year of cuts – much worse is yet to come.

Currently the arts budget funds a wide range of programmes. Their focus shifted to the outlying areas in Bath and those that perhaps don’t experience as much culture as people living in the central area.  Those areas that have just had brilliant programmes of arts will end up with next to nothing. At least there may still be some life left in the city centre but the affects for the outlying areas could be devastating. Other organisations that receive funding include Bath Festivals who run (or perhaps I should say “ran”) the International Music Festival, Literature Festival and Children’s Literature festival. Recently it was announced that two of those festivals would combine to create The Bath Festival. How will the cuts affect them? In honesty they, like many larger organisations have chosen not to speak out against the cuts so far – so we don’t know how this effects them.

The trouble is if your Local Authority doesn’t show any faith in the arts then why should anybody else? It sends out a very negative and damaging message to our audiences and to people living in the locality of arts organisations. We don’t want to become a city that says “We used to have that and it was great. But now all you can do to entertain yourself is get into debt at the shiny new white elephant, I mean casino! And why not park on a field first whilst you’re at it?”

As “artists” (I hate that as a buzzword!) we understand the importance of funding the arts. What we don’t understand effectively is how to convey that message to everyone else.

Today I was sent a brilliant documentary about arts cuts entitled “Making the Cut” which was created shortly after the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton closed its doors. It focuses a lot on Somerset where they had 100% arts cuts, but it makes the case for the arts in a brilliant way looking at all the different effects to local areas. If you haven’t seen it I really suggest you give it a watch.

I could quite happily sit here and reel-off statistics to you about the economic benefit of the arts. But you will probably stop reading and fall asleep. So let’s tackle this in a different way.

I’m going to tell you a story…

Meet Emily!

(Come on now say hello, don’t be shy!).

Now Emily runs a small arts organisation in Bath. She is currently working on a theatre production using local arts professionals and members of the community. On her team are a director, actors, set designer, lighting designer, stage manager, writer and musicians. Emily has to pay all of them. Out of their fees they all pay tax and national insurance which goes back into the treasury.

Now because Emily is local she needs a place to rehearse so Emily sources a rehearsal space. This happens to be at a small community hall. She pays rent on that rehearsal space which helps those running it to get income. They rehearse for two weeks.

Some of the professionals don’t live locally so they need somewhere to stay. So they book accommodation with local B&Bs. Some of them drive to rehearsals so they pay for parking locally.

During that rehearsal period Emily and her team have regular refreshment breaks. They use the local cafe for teas, coffees and snacks. During lunchtime they use a local pub and eat food. After rehearsals they all pop into a pub for a few drinks.

The show itself requires a set and props to be made. They book and pay for a workshop to build the set and props. So Emily’s set designer Bob and Stage Manager Laura get on the phone and buy timber from a local timber merchant. Laura also needs to find props and what’s the best place to find props? Charity shops. So off she pops to visit all the local charity shops and buy some props.

The lighting designer is the next one, off on a mission. They design the lighting for the show and realise that the theatre doesn’t have all the lights needed for the production. So they phone up a local hire company and book some lanterns for hire.

Now the show needs advertising. So they get a local designer to create posters and flyers which are then printed by the local printing company and sponsored by local businesses with their logos and support shown on them.

Finally it’s show week. Emily pays for the hire of the theatre or does a box office split with them. The theatre employs front of house staff, box office staff, technical staff etc.

The show opens and members of the public come along and see the show. They travel to the theatre either by public transport or by car (again they pay for parking). They spend money on tickets (again the VAT on these goes back to the treasury) and money on refreshments at the theatre bar (which just so happens to use a local brewery to source it’s beverages from). Maybe they purchase a programme. Maybe they make an evening of it and arrive early to have a meal at a local restaurant. After the show they pop to a local pub for a final drink before getting a taxi home.

The show week ends and another company moves in and the process begins again.

 

This is just one slightly exaggerated example from one theatre company. Removing funding from arts organisations cause large ripples throughout the wider economy. If you stop funding a large number of them at once these ripples become much more obvious and the waves reach further. It’s damaging to everyone – not just “artists”.

Bath could become a culture vacuum. Where art isn’t for everyone but only for those who can afford it. If you cut out all the smaller companies and venues you are left with something that is not accessible to everybody.

A cultural event draws people to it. For example the Bath Carnival. People will come out just to watch the beautiful colours and spectacular dancing. It’s visual and it attracts attention. But by attracting that attention, by engaging with the community and tourists alike it creates opportunities for businesses around the event to benefit from it. Draw people in with the arts and culture and the whole city benefits.

For every £1 invested in the arts it brings back between £2 and £6 into the local economy.

That is huge!

 

Empty Shops

We currently have a lot of empty shops in Bath that quite frankly make the place look run down and like it’s dying. Which it will if the rates on the shops imposed by the Council keep forcing small businesses out. Why not allow local arts organisations to take over the spaces temporarily and generate at least some income from these disused spaces?

 

Arts Council Grants

A lot of smaller organisations use the arts grants to enable them to match fund larger funding bids to organisations like the Arts Council England (generally you must have match funding of 10% from somewhere else). If there is no investment from the Local Authority there is less chance of getting investment from the Arts Council for projects. Although the Arts Council try to remain positive in their response to the current situation it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they will be more inclined to support areas where their Local Authorities engage with them and support local artists.

 

Wellbeing

The arts benefit people’s wellbeing. They bring communities together. They promote diversity. They can help tackle social issues. They can rehabilitate people. They teach empathy – the term emphatic arts is being banded around a lot at the moment.

 

Creating Good Art

Even taking it back to the basics – we just want to create good art that everyone can experience and that this enriches the city culturally.

 

Students

We are also home to Bath Spa University which is an artistic university. Will students want to come and study in a city where there is no support for the arts? It won’t matter how good the courses may be (and they are very good, by the way). If you have a choice of going somewhere that you will be supported through your development by a wide range of external cultural experiences or go to a city where the arts are dying and it’s becoming a living museum – which would you choose? Not to mention what happens when these students graduate? If there is no infrastructure there to support them they will take their creativity elsewhere. We should be supporting these artists. They want the opportunity to perform and give back to a city that they have become familiar with. Now they are moving to Bristol or other places because as an “artist” there is very little chance of working here.

 

When the funding is gone we stand very little chance of every getting it back. Looking at some of our neighbouring counties the effects of this are far-reaching and devastating. I’ve used the term before but Bath could become a graveyard for the arts.

 

This all sounds a bit doom and gloom doesn’t it?

 

Well let me assure you we’re not out yet – not by a long shot. There is an ever-increasing number of us that see the bigger picture and will carry on fighting and battling for an industry that we believe in. The support is growing hourly at the moment. And you can all help too!

 

Please sign and share the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/cllr-tim-warren-scrap-bath-and-north-east-somerset-100-arts-cuts

 

ThunderClap

We’ve set up a ThunderClap to go out on the day of the decision. A ThunderClap is basically a scheduled post that goes out on a set date and time. It is the same post from multiple accounts which helps create a lot of noise and draw attention to a particular subject. Please sign up and share our ThunderClap as well:

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/52323-scrap-bath-arts-cuts

 

Your Stories

We need your stories of how the arts have benefitted you personally. We need to show all of the benefits of the arts to everyone in the community and from every angle. You can either leave that story as a comment on the petition or email it over to us: info@theatrebath.co.uk

 

We need to stand together on this and fight as one and we need to make our voices heard. If we don’t then the future of arts in Bath is looking bleak and the knock-on effects will eventually filter through to all organisations – even those who think they are sitting comfortably at the moment. It will eventually affect you as well. It’s not about one organisation, or one group, it’s about Bath as a community of culture and creativity.

 

Don’t let B&NES kill the goose that lays its golden eggs.

 
All thoughts are Luke’s own and do not represent the views of any organisation he may be associated with.

Reflections on Ron Moody and the power of performance

I was really saddened to hear of the death of Ron Moody today and it got me thinking about the impact that people have on our lives. People who we don’t know personally and have no real connection with but still you feel a shared sense of grief that they are gone.

The reason, I think, is that they are a part of our lives and played a huge part in our childhoods and are deeply rooted in the feelings that we associate with them, the characters they portrayed and the films that they were in.

There are certain films that we watch as children that have a lasting impression on us and which enable us to better understand the world around us. Who can’t remember watching Bambi, The Land Before Time or the Lion King for the first time (and let’s not even get into Watership Down!) and trying to come to terms with why Bambi or Little Foot would no longer be able to see their mums or why Mufasa was gone. It’s devastatingly harsh but also teaches us a lot about humanity and the frailty and fragility of life. Learning that nothing lasts forever is a tough lesson to learn but seeing these characters, who become our friends, deal with it somehow makes it all okay and allows us to see that actually things aren’t so bad after all and will be alright in the end.

There also films that cast a spell over us Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Mary Poppins, Bed Knobs & Broom Sticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia, Five Children and It (and so many more) all of which transport us, however briefly, into a world of pure magic and make-believe. Seeing strange characters such as those in Labyrinth and realising it’s actually okay to be different and make your own way in the world, not even thinking why the characters are different just accepting the fact that they are and being okay with that.

How many of you can honestly say that you didn’t feel excited the first time that you heard Peter Pan flew through the nursery window (he FLEW) and then took three normal (okay slightly well-off) children on an epic adventure to Neverland – a place filled with fairies, indians, pirates, lost boys, a maniacal one-handed villain and a crocodile that ticks.

We all love the power of a good story but there is something magical and inspiring about seeing those stories bought to life for us to see and experience.

For me I immediately had an image of Oliver! and sitting down as a child being captivated by it. Images of Christmas, family, time spent together and the joy that it brings are all closely associated with the news of this one character or person. I feel a personal connection to Oliver! as that was the film that really got me interested in performing. Being young and watching Oliver! you accept it for what it is. You feel for the young orphan boy, you despise Mr Bumble, feel afraid of Bill Sykes, love the fun of Fagin’s Gang and the family led by Nancy & Bett and want to be the Artful Dodger. You want to believe that these characters are real and that they exist and that if you wandered through London’s smoky streets you may stumble upon them and be allowed to join them as they adventure and sing. As you grow up you lose a bit of the magic but learn to respect the actors for their craft and skill in the performances that they give. They are truly masters of their craft.

I felt very similar when I heard that Robin Williams had died. It somehow felt as though a bit of magic, joy and wonder had been lost from the world and that it was perhaps a slightly darker place for not having them in it. But this is not the case – they leave behind them a massive and lasting legacy of great work that can be revisited and enjoyed time and time again. That’s the beauty of the gift that they were able to offer to us and share with us.  A gift that will continue to be shared by future generations.

And this is why theatre and film are essential art forms and should be deeply embedded in young people’s lives from an early age. As humans we need to experience these things and we need young people to be inspired by incredibly talented actors like Robin Williams and Ron Moody. The beauty of what they did for us was to create characters that we all loved,  characters we felt for, characters that we associate with. They did this with apparent ease and created a lasting impact on us. They may be gone but they will never be forgotten for the great gifts that they gave us. Their lives and souls were laid bare in front of us and they welcomed us in to become part of their worlds with open arms.

The arts are an integral part of growing up. For a lot of children the first live experience they will have is of a pantomime at Christmas and love or loathe them they do at their most basic level teach us about morality and the tales do have lessons embedded somewhere deep at the heart of them. In Bath we’re incredibly lucky to have the egg theatre and a whole host of different theatre schools which allow access to the arts for all ages.

We need our stories and our storytellers and those unique human beings who possess the magic to bring these tales to life for us. They are deeply embedded in our lives, in our souls and in our culture and I for one would like to say thank you for the laughter, thank you for the drama, thank you for the entertainment, thank you for the tears and emotions, thank you for bringing joy to millions of people and thank you for giving yourselves to us and forever holding a place in our hearts.