The Government’s latest spending round has seen the Department of Culture “get off lightly” with only an 8% cut in budget. Local Government has had a further 10% cut for next year. Some would argue that Arts should be one of the first things to go in straitened times.
There are still many people who are unsure whether Music, Art, and Drama have a place in the school curriculum – they are seen more as hobbies rather than one of the serious subjects by some. They do fall into a different category. It is unlikely that school instruction alone is going to create a career in the Arts and most students will never use the skills they have learned when they have stopped studying.
And yet the Arts clearly play a key part in defining our Culture. In today’s Sunday Times is an article which features the results of a survey by the London School of Economics. It has an Index Of Pleasure which shows that, unsurprisingly, making love increases our index of happiness the most (by 14.2). In second place? Theatre, dance and concerts increase happiness by 9.3 and in third place Exhibitions, museums and libraries increase it by 8.8. Both have a bigger impact than sports or hobbies. Work or being sick in bed are the greatest pleasure-killers. While the economy is important I would much rather be part of a long-term happy community than a long-term rich one.
I come from a family where I was surrounded by books from an early age and the library was part of the weekly schedule. Music filled the house constantly – players rather than listeners. My own legacy is an enjoyment of reading, badly playing the guitar and always enjoying drawing and painting. At one point I was interested in art as a career but instead I went the more traditional route and ended up in a career of computers, sales, contact centres and general management. The Arts still play a vital part in my life though and I always have an appreciation of those who excel. For me the Arts are more than part of our Culture and Heritage – they are very much part of the fabric of our country. They describe the “here and now” in a way that the newspapers and television can’t. They are the purest form of expression of creativity that is then harnessed into design and technology. At a time when the economic climate could drive the worst behaviours the Arts are reminder of our civilisation, the longer term and higher things.
Fourteen years ago Ashbourne Arts was founded out of a collaboration between Ashbourne Youth and Adult Community Centre Management Committee, local artists, craftspeople and people from the communities surrounding Ashbourne. They came together out of a sense of need but also opportunity. It has gone from strength to strength since then and we are now in the middle of the 14th event. Over 17 days there is a programme of diverse entertainment. 26 events supported by a number of Fringe events across 14 main venues. The event keeps growing with the addition this year of the excellent new library as a venue and the Fringe activities around the main programme.
For me, the Event is successful because it is based on a truth – Ashbourne already has a sense of community and a strong Arts culture with artists and crafts people in the area (check out my page of Ashbourne artists for more). It also aims for participation with a fabulous mix of events for young and old, low-brow to high-brow. I defy anyone not to find something which appeals. The Town is also a natural theatre with its architecture, the Rec, the Market Square and the bunting
We all owe thanks to the Committee that set up Ashbourne Arts and got the event underway. They put in a phenomenal amount of work to make sure it is well publicised and that the events run smoothly – you see the same faces at events throughout the festival. The Festival does cost money and the bigger it gets, the more money is involved. However, forgetting the artistic and cultural angle, the Festival benefits us all. The Ashbourne News Telegraph reported that Ashbourne Streetfest, just one part of the festival, brings over £100,000 to the town according to research by Derby University.The Festival attracted 14,000 visitors to the Town in 2012 – it tripled the population of Ashbourne! Our traders benefit enormously from the footfall. Ashbourne Arts does need funding however to make it all work. The bigger the event and the better talent appearing, the bigger the budget needs to be and thats where we can all play a part.
This year the Festival has received funding/support from:
Arts Council England,
Acres Signs & Graphics,
Ashbourne Community Transport,
Ashbourne Golf Club,
Ashbourne Methodist Church,
Ashbourne News Telegraph,
Ashbourne Tourist Information Centre,
Ashbourne Town Council,
Avanti of Ashbourne Ltd,
Bramhall’s Deli & Café,
Coates & Partners Accountants,
Derbyshire District & County Councils,
Fair Trade Ashbourne,
Friends of Ashbourne Arts,
John German Estate Agents,
Councillor Andrew Lewer,
Lions Club of Ashbourne.
Mark’s Family Butchers,
Rotary Club of Ashbourne,
St John Street Gallery & Café,
Wigley’s Shoes & Emporium
This demonstrates the community nature of the project. Personally I think it is fantastic to see so many local businesses giving support and putting something back. It is also great to see Waitrose giving something back to the community. Some of the other national retailers in the town could win some friends very easily by following suit. Imagine having one of them as an overall sponsor for the event and encouraging their staff to volunteer help?
Have a look at the programme at http://www.ashbournefestival.org/ and buy some tickets to attend events. This year I have enjoyed Arthur Smith, the Abba Revival night, and the Summer Art Exhibition and I’ve still got the Comedy Night and Quiz to go. In addition though, the Committee is still looking for Corporate sponsors. To discuss further benefits that you or your company can receive please contact the Ashbourne Festival Office on 01335-348707.