My sister recently went on a date to Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Her reasoning in choosing this venue was that there would definitely be something to talk about (and categorically no awkward silences). Cultural venues not only encourage us to talk about things but inspires us to do creative things, and without the ability to make and create we’d all be robots.
However, as the 2015 election draws near, culture has taken a backseat in the manifestos of major parties. With issues like the NHS, unemployment and social welfare on the agenda, culture can seem less important: however it’s key that the arts aren’t forgotten. Life can depend on health and economics: but quality of life would be significantly less without culture.
FACT is lucky enough to receive continued support from local and national government. Like the other fantastic cultural venues in Liverpool, we continue to benefit as part of a culturally rich city. Unfortunately, the future looks less certain for other organisations around the country. In Leicestershire it has just been announced that Snibston Discovery Park, a technology and science activity centre that I loved as a child, is set to be demolished. In Derby, a proposed cut of 26% is set for their three museums and art gallery, which would mean the closure of one and reduced opening hours for the others. Elsewhere around the country similar cuts pose threats to the existence of much loved cultural venues.
The public are demonstrating how important these organisations are to them. Petitions pour into local authorities, although 8,804 names were not enough to save Snibston Discovery. Arts Council England are also pushing the case for culture to authorities; they recently announced a grant for arts organisations to research the tangible benefits of arts on issues like health and education. This will support the 2014 report by ACE which found that cultural activities increased literacy and can improve mental health, along with more obvious benefits to the economy through cultural tourism.
Here at FACT, much of our own community work focuses on the social benefits of art. Our work with veterans and young people (through our In Hand project) builds on links between improving mental health and arts activities, and we work with schools to help children benefit from creative subjects. Of course, we’re also a great venue for dates.
Derby City Council are set to debate the museum and art galleries issue, prompted by a public petition of over 6,600 names. It’s important that people continue to use their voice and do what they can, and that cultural venues don’t fall by the wayside.