2012 – It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

So, welcome to 2012 – if you believe the fear-mongers, it’s the year the arts in Britain will come to an end.  Perhaps the Mayan prophecy was just misinterpreted, and instead of the actual end of days we’re looking at an arts apocalypse?

Well, if you ask me it’s not all doom and gloom.  Yes, there are things happening this year which will bring about their own set of negative repercussions – be it the impact of funding cuts really beginning to take hold or the Olympics supposedly seeing West End theatres struggling to fill seats – but this should not be the time for introspection and negativity; instead the arts need to respond in a positive way and show the world just how important they are to this country.

This isn’t the first time in recent history that the arts have seen funding slashed and support harder to come by, but we as a community shouldn’t be burdened with an over-reliance on securing money and resources to create work.  The growing pop-up and DIY movements show there are large numbers of artists who are determined to work together to ensure that exciting and experimental work continues to be made – and as such work is made, others can be encouraged to follow.  As with any community in times of crisis, we can either pull together or pull away from each other – one path can lead to reward, and the other to ruin.

Witnessing the continuing growth of companies such as Forest Fringe, venues such as Stoke Newington International Airport and communities such as the burgeoning arts scene in Bristol should fill us of all passionate about the arts with hope; they continue to face any challenges with a sense of purpose and a determination to ensure both participants and audiences can continue to benefit from their work.  Creating wider networks helps share ideas and provides inspiration to keep working – the power of the internet and events such as Improbable’s Devoted and Disgruntled and Pilot Theatre’s Shift Happens mean we continue to be connected to one another and do not have to be restricted to geographical boundaries when it comes to collaborating.

With regards to the Olympic conundrum, I feel this presents a perfect opportunity for regional theatre to thrive.  The theatre industry can be notoriously London-centric, and should theatres go dark and see a potential downturn in attendance figures in the capital then regional theatre can fill the gap in provisions – contrary to popular belief, the theatre-going public will not all disappear this summer.  If people are willing to travel to London to see a show, then why shouldn’t they be encouraged to travel elsewhere?  Here is an opportunity for regional theatre to stand up and show people just what fantastic work it is creating, and I sincerely hope it takes up the challenge.

And there’s nothing to say that the West End is going to suffer.  The bright lights and big shows will continue to be a draw to tourists, and shows such as Matilda, One Man, Two Guvnors and Clybourne Park have proved that audiences will see new shows in the West End; there is no need to assume that only the Phantoms and Wickeds of the world will bring people in.  The barrier of high ticket prices still continues to discourage many from attending – which, to producers’ defence, may be a by-product of high rent costs – but perhaps short-term reductions will be rewarded with fuller houses, and subsequently higher income rather than losses?

So, let’s not get dragged down by the nay-sayers and harbingers of doom this year – let us all stand up for what we believe in and continue to be proud to be a part of the arts in 2012.  In this Olympic year, let’s pick up the torch and run with it.

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