Why ‘Arts For All’ is important and we shouldn’t wait 50 years to support it

Today is the anniversary of Jennie Lee’s White Paper on arts policy which stated that:

“Only yesterday it was the fight for a free health service. The day before it was the struggle to win education for all … In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.”

The paper then follows with a series of recommendations on how to do this – most of which are still relevant in today’s climate of austerity and cuts, where the arts are seen by most as a luxury we can’t afford, created and accessed by the white middle classes and supported by the London elite.

You can read a blog about it HERE with links through to the original paper, with quotes added from current and recent arts leaders and organisations that show how these 50 year old recommendations are meaningful today.

Today, on the anniversary of the paper, and 70 days before a general election, I want to stand up and be counted and say that this stuff really matters to me, and to tell you why.

Then I thought about how, and decided that the best way to do it would be to share some comments from the people that have taken part in Irregular Arts work recently.  They say it so much better than I ever could.

This is the reason I do what I do.  This is what makes it worthwhile when I’m labouring over another funding bid to Arts Council England, or trying to persuade a local authority officer that our project is a good way to spend their diminishing budget.  This is my answer to the husband of a friend who questioned why I should be spending public funding on red sparkly shoes.  This is arts for all, in Bradford, with 116 ordinary women and girls from every community and from across the district and beyond, taking part, sharing something, doing something creative – this is the rainbow that gives us hope in the storm.  This…

  • The workshop ended up helped me with some personal stuff I’ve been dealing with for a while. I was hopeless in the answers I gave on the day, as I just don’t open up in front of people. I thought about the questions posed some more after and it made me realise a few things about myself (and others) and that’s already had a positive impact. I wasn’t expecting anything like that…
  • What an amazing experience for our girls. The whole thing was incredibly powerful. (Teacher at Eastwood School).
  • 75 Dorothys what can I say?  Absolutely LOVED it!  It gave me courage, it gave me strength and I loved each and every millisecond of it with my sparkly red heart!  Thank you everyone, it has been amazing (in tears as I write this)
  • When I arrived at Delius Art Centre a little apprehensive, never having been before and not knowing anyone, and was directed to the shoe boxes where I found one with my name on, slowly opened the lid and found the sparkliest red boots I could have ever imagined! I have a smile from ear to ear again just thinking about it!
  • We had a brilliant day from a participants point of view. The main event really was the best bit … everyone I encountered was friendly and really enthusiastic about the project, which was wonderful to experience/observe.  It’s enormous fun and rewarding to be a small part of something that’s much bigger and works on so many different levels. It made lots of people smile, even those who had no idea of what was going on.  Plus, who doesn’t want to see Glinda appear in the middle of a giant paddling pool in the centre of a post-industrial Northern city? Made my day.  And shoes, we all loved the shoes. 
  • Loved being part of it and that anyone and everyone was welcome to join in
  • It was great opportunity to engage with other women and to share some of our life experiences stories together and learn from each other, a very empowering session.
  • Being a Dorothy was truly fantastic, I felt welcomed from the start and enjoyed every second of it. For me it was a truly fantastic and original personal development thing and one that was so very well worth doing.
  • Really enjoyed my 75 Dorothys experience.  Thanks so much for organising it!  I particularly enjoyed being part of something with a mixed group of women and girls and the positive energy in the rehearsal place was brilliant.
  • I came on my own to the event and met lots of lovely people and felt welcome. It was a fun activity and I enjoyed being part of it. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity in participating even though I had a bad back, It was well worth doing.  I found that there is a little glitter in Bradford from time to time and 75 Dorothys sparkled in Bradford Centenary Square. 

PS – If you’d like to read more or watch a film about our 75 Dorothys project, you can HERE

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