Somerset Arts – big change or small crumbs
“Arts and culture across Somerset are set to benefit from the creation of a Somerset Cultural Strategy.” So the headline trumpets on the latest press release form the new administration at Somerset County Council (SCC). This follows a £30,000 grant awarded by Arts Council England.
Over the next year, SCC aim to produce a five-year cultural strategy for the new unitary Somerset Council. This will which come into being in April 2023. So to be clear the £30,000 isn’t to spend on the arts as such. It is to spend on creating a Somerset Cultural Strategy for the arts.
Community priorities will be included. Presumably following a variety of consultations to find out what they are. The idea of course is to “ensure arts and culture is embedded at the heart of the new authority’s strategic plans.”
All good in theory. In addition, £5,000 has also been committed towards the strategy from each of the councils in Somerset. That’s Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, SCC, Somerset West & Taunton Council and South Somerset District Council.
All in all a total of £55,000 to spend creating a strategy. Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, SCC’s Executive Lead Member for Communities, puts her finger on the button: “Somerset is blessed with vibrant artists and superb arts organisations, but it remains the case that while talent is everywhere opportunity is not.”
So where will opportunity come from? Not from the £55,000 committed here. The Somerset Cultural Strategy will be prepared for the new council. However then it is up to that council to decide if it should be adopted. Then and only then will funding opportunities be pursued.
The Leveller® says:
Looking for grants and funding for the arts will undoubtedly be welcome. But some of that funding should come from the new council. In 2010 Somerset lost all funding for cultural and arts from the county council budget. There surely needs to be a recognition that culture and arts are too important for them not to get funding at local authority level. It is not just a matter of going cap in hand looking for grants from elsewhere. What is missing is a commitment today, not to a strategy, but future funding for the arts. From our council’s budget.