Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Taking the frills out of Barnet: the case of the artsdepot, Or: Give us bread, but give us roses

In December Barnet council announced that it wants to cut all the funding it gives to the artsdepot in north Finchley, the only professional arts venue in the borough.

The artsdepot commented:
In the past financial year, artsdepot received £194,000 from Barnet Borough Council, amounting to 11% of its overall turnover. Comparable arts venues in six other London boroughs received local authority support amounting to between £226,000 and £650,000, which made up between 18% and 68% of their overall turnover. artsdepot has always strived not to be dependent on one core funder, earning around half of its income itself through, amongst other things, box office sales and hires. Around a further 25% of funding comes from private trusts and foundations who value its work. However, the late notice of this announcement makes it incredibly difficult for the venue to plan for the consequences of the proposed cuts.
The blog for Barnet Alliance for Public Services has a piece written by Tanya Novick, the convenor of the Jasmine women's group, a community group for refugee women, which meets at the artsdepot. It illustrates why cuts to the artsdepot will harm the wider community. Arts funding is not all about subsidised opera tickets and bewildering installations, far from it.

The socialist movement has a saying "give us bread, but give us roses" which seems fitting here. The saying comes from a poem which became the anthem of a strike of immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.

Bread and Roses
by James Oppenheim

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women’s children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!

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