Has Elgin lost its marbles?

It would seem that Moray Council has, with its bonkers announcement this week that it has voted to cut all funding to the arts - the first Scottish local authority to do so. Let’s hope it’s the last.

The council has defended the decision by explaining that it’s just one of a number of cuts that have to be made if it’s to save £7 million from its 2013/14 budget, as part of a £30million cut over the next three years.

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Those are vast sums of money, so what is the huge saving that will be made by axing arts funding? £62,000 for the remainder of this year, and £94,000 in 2013/14. 

Every mickle maks a muckle, and cuts have to be made, but those are tiny sums within the overall budget, and the work done by companies and artists across the region represents the bargain of the century for the council, and, more importantly, the people of the area. 

Over the past ten years, the arts team whose posts have already been cut, had implemented a local arts strategy, resulting in grassroots, transformative work with children and young people on the margins of society, as well as performances and interaction with the local community by organisations including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland.

And yet, the Council claims that the arts cut reflects “what people said they were prepared to live without” after a three-month period of consultation. Interesting then, that the suggestions from the public, available to view online, and conveyed via feedback forms, are all pro-arts.

Here’s a sample: “Don’t cut cultural services – they are an investment for the future”; Keep community centres and museums for tourism”; “retain arts in Moray”; “move money from other areas into arts”; “arts can lead to more revenues/ spending money”; “Keep libraries and museums open”.

I can only conclude that this short-sighted decision has been made because the councilors are literally short-sighted - they clearly cannot read what local people have written. That must be the case. They wouldn’t be ignoring the public and implementing a policy regardless, would they?

So get in there and support your local grassroots arts event - the Glasgow Film Festival may be flourishing, but it needs bums on seats too - it’s just got underway - book your tickets now - some events are already sold out.

Meanwhile, a new film festival, SCOTTISH REELS, begins in Peebles today. Organised by the Eastgate Theatre, the line-up includes new and classic films, in a celebration of over 100 years of Scotland’s finest cinematic talents, behind and in front of the camera. It includes a selection of Tartan Shorts, by the likes of Peter Mullan. Yes - Scottish Screen funding helped kick-start Peter’s career. He went on to direct features in Scotland, creating work and boosting the local economy. Just one example of how a tiny investment in artists can pay off big time.