Having run his election campaign promising to do something about inequality in the city, Marvin “The Vicar” Rees has wasted no time in feathering the nests of the UNEQUAL in the city.

At the Cabinet meeting on 29 June The Vicar signed off spending of around £3.3m in a combination of grants and loans to the city’s “WORLD CLASS CULTURAL VENUES“.

This means more HANDOUTS to the Bristol Old Vic, the Colston Hall and the St George’s concert hall from our pockets. And it includes a cool £1.6m going straight into the pockets of CONSULTANTS to draw up designs for the refurbishment of the Colston Hall.

It also means that a small impenetrable CULTURAL CLIQUE will continue to coin it in at our expense as the luvvies don’t work for the minimum wage. Plus it’s a very neat little direct SUBSIDY to the consumer choices of Bristol West’s well-heeled middle classes who make up the overwhelming number of customers at these upmarket venues.

These HANDOUTS TO THE POSH came just weeks before The Vicar finally admitted that the council is going to have to make 1,000 REDUNDANCIES to balance the books. This is at a council, which still has services reeling from the 500 poorly executed redundancies they made in 2014 that didn’t save anything like the money claimed.

The word coming from long-suffering staff at the council is that this next round of cuts will DESTROY many of our public services as going concerns. They will simply not be able to cope. Already phones are unanswered; homeless families are unhoused; council houses lie empty flytipping is not collected. What will this next phase of this AUSTERITY MADNESS unleash?

But don’t worry, at least you’ll be able to see a crappy play at the Old Vic produced by a sensitive Oxbridge prat about the appalling ‘state of the nation’ (if you can afford it).

COMING SOON: The Rev Rees’s multi-million subsidies to the, er, film industry!

13 thoughts on “ART FOR AUSTERITY’S SAKE

  1. Andrew forsey

    Bristol city council is the laughing stock of the UK. The words piss up brewery spring to mind. Why can they cut services, make 1000 employees redundant and then pay millions to prop up the bottleyard film project that does little for the average person.

  2. paul

    Please stop using the term austerity, it gives pubic organisations like Bristol City Council a continual excuse. BCC has plenty of cash its how it chooses to spend it is the important element. Like anyone that reads the Bristolian I could list £10m’s of savings without even scratching the surface (and these savings DON’T include cutting services for the vulnerable) so can we please use terms like ‘spending priorities’.

  3. paul

    on one more thing on the Colston Hall tried to buy tickets for an event £40-£80 face value max of 4 tickets each, sold out immediately. Within 5 minutes I get an unsolicited email from a ticket reseller, so the Colston Hall either gave or sold my email address to them. offering me as many tickets as I liked for £300 – £400 each.

  4. Ali Robertson

    I think these grants lever in a lot of other money from outside the city so are a good investment for the city on financial grounds alone (BOV = grant of £300k but turnover of around £4m, even without the tens of millions it’s brought in for its rebuilding) but that’s a big can of worms.

    Another point however is that if Marvin had not signed off, i.e. if BCC had reneged upon their earlier promise of these grants, then many people would have lost their jobs (most of which are paid not very much – arts salaries are low). You may think that’s fine but when Kate Brindley cut jobs in the Museum and looked likely to at Arnolfini you seemed anti-that ( I’m genuinely curious what you would have done: would you have reneged upon the earlier agreement, giving the savings to other causes, and accepted the job losses? Or would you have only paid the grants if all the bosses were fired? Or something else?

    1. The Bristol Blogger

      There’s an inarguable capitalist logic to an argument that public spending that generates money is a good thing and therefore must be done. However it puts public services that don’t attract money like -say – respite care for children with severe disabilities at a serious disadvantage.

      There’s a sizeable minority of people in this city – if not a majority – that are aghast that a local respite centre has had its funding cut by £350k a year and beds cut while entertainment venues are handed yet more money.

      Many people think these venues should be run on a business basis and the money saved given to public services in desperate need. Can’t they put ticket prices up?

  5. Ali Robertson

    Thanks for the reply. I agree that arts funding doesn’t enjoy huge popular support (but I’d also note that if we made all the savings that people apparently “cry out for” I don’t think there’d be much left for anyone). I think this is in part because of misinformation about the amounts involved. Arts funding at a national level = 4p for every £100 of govt spending. Sure we could cut it but the savings wouldn’t make any difference at all. I don’t know the equivalent local figure but I know that Bristol is way down the league table of arts spend (something like 1/6 the spend per head of Liverpool and Manchester).

    I think that ‘let them all run exactly like businesses’ is quite a capitalist position but I’d agree that arts orgs in receipt of public funding have a duty to maximise income from other sources and minimise waste. I’m not sure that the orgs you reference – St George’s, Old Vic, Colston – can put up ticket prices much more (and I remember you tweeting about the BOV prices for Xmas shows a while back) and I doubt you want community orgs like acta and Travelling Light to start charging kids £5 instead of 50p. For most orgs then if their income goes down then they’ll start shedding staff. It’s perfectly coherent to say that this is just how it has to be but I’m not sure why you gave Kate Brindley a hard time for doing exactly that.

  6. Cotham Cider

    You seem to be trying to argue about something the article doesn’t actually cover. What relevance does national government arts funding as a proportion of overall spend have? The point is that several million pounds of local budget have just been signed off by a council which, on the other hand, is making 1000 staff redundant and cutting other services back.

    This isn’t about “the arts”, this (as the article says) is more specifically about a small group of, ahem, “cultural venues” that soak up a lot of public money despite the very narrow appeal of what they offer. Do you not get that?

  7. Ali Robertson

    I do get that. I mostly disagree with it. I think if BCC didn’t invest money in arts then it would be a loser, in financial and other terms. I also think it’s a small amount of money. I don’t know what was signed off but Bristol used to spend about £1m in grants on cultural provision pa (down way over 50% from 2008ish) so I presume it covers 3 years and includes Travelling Light in Barton Hill, acta (who work with disadvantaged groups) etc. This is good value for what I presume is adjacent to 4p in every £100 of spend (I already said I don’t know the local figure) and is also small by comparison with other cities. I absolutely agree that BCC should check that their money isn’t propping up a narrow, cliquey offer. I think they do that reasonably well and actually think that Marvin is likely to make them do it better.

    My question was whether The Bristolian would make the cuts, knowing they’d lead to job losses and if so why he castigated Kate Brindley for doing that. It’s a quite genuine question. I think he does a good job (less so in arts coverage where I quite often disagree) and when I used to run a venue in Bristol gave him a family ticket to a show, which I believe he very much enjoyed, as a small thank you for muckraking so I’m not just being a contrarian.

    1. The Bristol Blogger

      £350k to fund respite care for the severely disabled children is an even smaller amount of money then (how many pence in every pound spent is that)? Although we apparently can’t afford this? What price Hamlet (for the umpteenth bloody time – bearing in mind you can watch a perfectly serviceable dvd with Mel Gibson doing it better anyway)?

      You are wrong when you say BCC would be a loser in financial terms if they stopped funding the arts. BCC gets no direct income from funding the Old Vic, Colston Hall, St George’s etc. It’s a line of expenditure in their accounts that has no of line income. That’s not to say ‘the arts’ doesn’t earn money though. But that more-or-less goes to private business interests riding on the back of it. So why don’t they pay and we can fund the disabled kids or, if we want to be less blatantly emotive, a few more places for the homeless, or a little less emotive, a few more people to look after all the mentally ill staggering aimlessly and helplessly around our streets? Do you not notice the shit going on around you? Personally I’m tired of stepping over the homeless every morning on my way to work. Who needs another expensive production of Beckett ? It’s there on the sodding streets I walk down every day.

      We don’t have a problem with Acta or Travelling light. Small local outfits receiving small amounts for small local shit aren’t the issue. We do have an issue with an Oxbridge prat being given our money to produce four hour versions of Jane Eyre in an expensive 18th Century theatre only accessible to the rich. Who the fuck is this relevant to? Not the majority of the people forking out for it that’s for sure.

      And yes, we would sack the Old Vic staff. Purely on the basis that the building’s owned by the Merchant Venturers anyway and so if the council stepped out someone else might just find a large amount of cash down the back of the sofa (or a in slave trader’s trust fund?)

      I could go on as I haven’t mentioned those piss-taking greedy wankers at the Watershed yet – but it’s late.

  8. Ali Robertson

    Fact check:

    Jane Eyre made the theatre a lot of money. It will make it a lot more next year when it tours the country again (including, I think, the hippodrome). This is one of the ways that the old vic has increased its income over the last few years to counteract declining public funding.
    The merchant venturers don’t own the old vic.
    Hamlet has been produced twice in the last decade – both times by unsubsidised outfits.

    Of course I notice the state that we’re in. Cutting arts funding will make the tiniest bit of difference in the short term and will do more harm than good very quickly.

    But thank you for confirming that you’d sack them all. I guess Kate Brindley was right after all.

    1. The Bristol Blogger

      Why if it makes lots of money do we have to fund it?

      Don’t see any need to sack the luvvies. They just need to make the money to pay themselves don’t they? Shouldn’t be too tough for these brilliantly fabulous creatives surely?

  9. Cotham Cider

    You seem to be so determined to prove internal inconsistencies in this article that you’ve completely overlooked the fact that Brindley was criticised for having sacked and deskilled the staff at those well-known bastions of cultural elitism and high ticket prices, the municipal museums.

    Good grief.

  10. AlleyKat

    Let them eat cake? If there was a choice, a stage hand or a respite bed for a disabled child. Stage hand capable of finding further employment.


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