Norwich’s arts scene’s fight to thrive Westminster-bound

Former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw (second right), with (left to right) Adrian Cooke, director of

Former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw (second right), with (left to right) Adrian Cooke, director of the Sound and Vision festival, Jane Claridge, from the Theatre Royal, Jess Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, Maggie Wheeler, from The Garage and Caroline Richardson, from The Playhouse. - Credit: Archant

The way Norwich's arts organisations are fighting to thrive following cuts in funding will be highlighted at a government select committee - after a former culture secretary heard their concerns.

Ben Bradshow, who was Labour's secretary of state for culture, media and sport from 2009 to 2010, visited The Garage, The Playhouse and Norwich Arts Centre this week as part of a fact-finding mission.

Mr Bradshaw, who was brought up in Norwich and is a former EDP journalist, is a member of the culture, media and sports select committee and is working on a report into the impact of government cuts on the arts.

He said: 'Norwich is a great showcase for how culture and the arts can really boost a city's reputation and economy. Even in the current climate of very big cuts the city still manages to have a thriving arts scene.

'It's a great tribute to Norwich has managed to sustain this despite the difficult climate. The benefits to Norwich of that are enormous.

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'Culture and the arts is not some fluffy add-on that its nice to have. It is vital to health and wellbeing, but also to economic wellbeing, because of the jobs which it creates.'

Mr Bradshaw met representatives from arts organisations such as The Theatre Royal, Norwich Playhouse, the Sound and Vision Festival and The Garage to hear their concerns about securing funding.

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And he said: 'We have a big report coming up to the select committee into the impact of the cuts on culture and I hope to use what I have discussed in Norwich at that.' He said one of the concerns which had been raised was that changes to the national curriculum was taking emphasis away from subjects such as drama and art, deterring students from taking subjects which often led to careers in culture and the media.

Norwich City Council's leader Brenda Arthur recently warned that, with local government receiving less in funding from local government, she could not guarantee that free events such as The Lord Mayor's Celebrations would not be 'diminished' in the future.

She said: 'The strength of Norwich's arts scene helps make our city a very special place. It serves to bring people together and is something we share as a city and are rightfully proud of.

'During these tough times our Labour city Ccouncil will keep working with our partners and do all it can to keep protecting and promoting our local arts and culture'

And Jess Asato, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, said: 'Events such as the Lord Mayor's Procession, Norwich Pride, and the Norwich and Norfolk Festival all rely heavily on funding from both the charitable sector and local government. When the budgets of charities and local government are cut it puts these projects at risk.'

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