Maintaining Brighton’s position in the cultural landscape needs both commitment and cash
You’d have to be hiding under a fairly substantial rock to miss the fact that, during May, things get a little arty here in Brighton.
Take the Fugu office as a social microcosm: the last month has seen lunchtime classical guitar sessions, French wartime poetry recitals, London tribute films and a healthy dose of the Spiegeltent action.
It goes without saying that our city is already of the green voting, Guardian reading persuasion. But between the Great Escape, the Festival and the Fringe, May is a month where Brighton natives switch into cultural overdrive.
So vast are our options, few of us ever pause to ask how these projects get started in the first place?
Now in its 49th year, Brighton Festival is something of an art scene stalwart and receives funding alongside the Brighton Dome as part of the Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.
So what about the smaller acts? The Brighton Fringe is a registered charity and relies on registration fees from its participants – which this year numbers at 760.
Then there are the free events. Burning the Clocks, the wonderfully irreverent winter solstice lantern procession is run by community arts charity Same Sky. They receive a smattering of funding from the Arts Council but otherwise look to community fundraising through bucket collections and its modern counterpart – crowdfunding.
South East Dance in April launched the Space to Dance fundraising campaign in its bid to secure £500,000 by the end of November. In addition to the £3million already raised, the funds will go towards building The Dance Space, a state-of-the-art performance venue set to take over the rundown Circus Street area. The new venue will provide a home for the city’s artistic talent, not to mention reinvigorate an area that sits in the top 1% of the most socially deprived neighbourhoods in England.
And these projects aren’t just asking for money – they’re also giving a healthy dose back. Businesses in the arts and culture industry contribute an estimated £6 billion of gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy.
Nevertheless, theatre, television and bodies such as Arts Council England are expected to face some of the deepest funding cuts under the current Government plan to reduce the deficit. And with last month’s election result, the future of arts funding is even more uncertain, as Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey summarised succinctly, “no party can promise to maintain arts funding.”
Yet, for the moment, Brighton continues to be a hub for art projects and events through a wonderful mix of funding, fundraising, grit and sheer determination. But if you want that to continue then now’s the time to get out from under that rock and start paying closer attention.
Images courtesy of Zoe Manders.
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This post was written by Alice Johnson