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Issue 315 – “Give Somerset back its arts funding this Christmas”

ART enthusiasts in Frome are urged to show their support in a petition to “Save Somerset Arts”.
Somerset County Council recently announced that they would be cutting 100% of next year’s £159,000 arts development budget.

As the first county council in the country to make such radical cuts within the arts, the decision has caused widespread concern across Frome, Somerset and the UK.
Arts organisations in Frome are among those across the county asking those who live, work and study in Somerset to sign a ‘Save Somerset Arts’ petition, either on paper or online. The aim of the petition is to initiate a new debate with the county council over the reinstatement of a fair and reasonable arts development budget.
Claudia Berry, director of the Merlin Theatre said, “If people care about the arts in Frome and Somerset they should go to the Take Art website, or we’ve got a paper petition here that they can come and sign. We had a great response all through Dorian Gray and we hope that will continue. All the way through Peter Pan we’ll have the petition out for people to sign.”
Black Swan Arts also have copies of the petition in their shop and cafe. Hilary Gilmore, one of the trustees, said, “The reason the petition is important is that all the arts organisations are at risk of having to curtail their programmes if the funding is reduced. We all work very hard to get funding from other sources, but programmes of the arts and education all cost money.” She added that a show of financial support from local sources is also important for giving organisations better recognition among national funding bodies.
Jo Plimmer, arts administrator at Rook Lane Arts said, “People shouldn’t think this is just about art, it’s about the economy. The fact we’ve got art spaces and we’re known as an arts town is drawing a lot of businesses and people to the town. They’re the hook that bring in new people.”
As the petition was launched, Ralph Lister, director of a Somerset arts charity, Take Art said, “We are aiming to collect signatures from at least 5,000 Somerset residents by 16th December in order to trigger a debate on the issue at a full county council meeting.
“We still need people to get online and sign, or to go along to their local arts venue and write their name on one of the hundreds of paper petitions.”
Hundreds of people from Somerset have left comments supporting the petition and the value of Somerset arts funding. These can be read by visiting the petition at www.gopetition.com
Take Art believes that if the cut in funding goes ahead, it will have the following consequences:-
• “Arts organisations in Somerset will not be able to continue the same levels of arts activities within communities
• “Children and young people will have fewer opportunities to access arts and education
• “Vulnerable people, including isolated, older and disabled people, will have limited chances to benefit from social and health-related arts projects
“Everyone in the family can have their say by signing a form or joining the online petition by the 16th December. As long as you live, study or are employed in Somerset you are eligible to sign, but ‘under 18s’ should ask permission from a parent or guardian.
“You can access the online petition by going to the Take Art homepage at www.takeart.org and clicking through to the petition link.”

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