A deputy has brought forward long-term funding proposals for the island’s arts and heritage sector to ensure support for local creativity doesn’t “slip” off the government agenda during his suspension as Assistant Minister for Culture.
Deputy Montfort Tadier is urging the states to commit to spending 1% of its budget each year on arts funding – a proposal that will go to a vote at the end of this month, which he hopes will have benefits for tourism and the economy.
His push to scrap treatment of arts and heritage as a “poor relation” comes in response to what was been deemed a worsening ‘culture crisis’, which was first raised by heads of arts organisations in an open letter to all election candidates last year.
Since then, and following being appointed Assistant Minister for Culture, Deputy Tadier said he pushed for the publication of a damning report by BOP Consulting, which laid bare the grave situation facing the island’s arts scene, warning that the Arts Centre or Opera House would have to close if funding gaps left by slashed arts funding aren’t plugged.
Pictured: The Arts Centre could have to close if funding gaps aren't plugged, BOP Consulting warned.
Elsewhere the report described the level of funding as "strikingly low" and "significantly lower” than in other jurisdictions", mentioning that in 2016, the States spent just under £4.8million on cultural initiatives (0.68% of their total expenditure).
Deputy Tadier is therefore urging States Members to support his proposals to move that percentage up to 1% by 2022, which would amount to spending of around £2.3million per year.
Despite having recently been suspended from the lead government role for culture, the Deputy told Express that he was bringing his proposals to ensure that the arts were still protected despite their currently being no figurehead while crucial funding decisions are being made.
He said his 1% recommendation was in line with BOP’s report and “not the highest benchmark by any means”, adding that it was standard for – and in some cases below – many European countries.
Pictured: Deputy Tadier is urging States Members to support his proposals to move the percentage of expenditure on cultural initiatives up to 1% by 2022.
“I think it’s important that when there are reports that are paid for that we don’t let them gather dust, but enact the recommendations where they’re sensible. One of the key findings was that we should commit to more realistic investment. Iceland spends 2.5% and Malta spends over 2% of their total expenditure on CAH [Culture, Arts, Heritage, ed.] so Jersey’s really falling behind in that respect, so it’s just putting us back to where we should be in terms of the resources we’re giving these groups so that we can start to build on that for the future.”
However, the Deputy said that the reason for putting forward his proposals was not just about keeping Jersey in line with other nations, but recognising the impact arts and heritage can have for wellbeing.
He noted that the future of the Jersey Arts in Healthcare Trust – a programme bringing arts and culture to disabled and elderly people since 1993 – is currently “uncertain” due to funding constraints.
Spending more on arts funding, the Deputy said, could have a very tangible impact here. “It provides clear value, you can see it when people are recovering from whatever kind of illness – it might be a stroke, it might be people living wth Alzheimer’s or debilitating degenerative conditions. The power of music and art is really a wonder to watch and it does so much in those areas alone.”
Pictured: More investment in the arts may also encourage tourism.
The Deputy emphasised that investing in the arts may also encourage tourism, while also having an impact on “what we’re aspiring to achieve internationally from a business and diplomacy point of view”.
While Deputy Tadier’s proposals make no recommendation as to how any extra money should be allocated, it could also mean a more certain future for the Arts Centre and Opera House.
He hoped that more funding would give them the flexibility to focus on “the real job of delivering an artistic programme”, rather than being run down by the “bureaucracy” of funding applications.
“A lot of these organisations have only just had their money put through for this year and are expected to fill in quite a lot of paperwork. These are well-established trusted organisations that are competent. It’s correct that there should be an element of financial governance but I don’t want those organisations to waste any more time than they need to when funding is limited and increasingly difficult to come by.”
Pictured: "Whether it’s art or natural heritage, there’s something for everybody in the sector," says Deputy Tadier. (Holly Smith)
Despite an impending £30million to £40million black hole in the government’s finances, which was cited as a reason by some States Members for not increasing public sector workers’ pay, Deputy Tadier said that he hoped the issue would transcend political divides.
“It’s up to the States whether they are serious about Jersey’s arts and culture and its unique offering. I firmly believe that we’ve got a lot of unique culture in Jersey that we need to be proud of that’s beneficial for our local community… This is a way to give a message to government that we do support this sector, not just in words but in deeds and we’ll back them with our money.”
He added: “Whether it’s art or natural heritage, there’s something for everybody in the sector. It’s something that the schools can buy into. The health department should be strongly backing because there’s a strong correlation between health outcomes and healthy living and there’s a strong cultural sector in the island. There’s strong evidence that culture is a revenue-raiser so there is an economic multiplier.
“If you invest as a government, you will ultimately be putting back into the economy. It is really an ‘invest to save’, so I will be encouraging all States Members to recognise all of those things.”
States Members will vote on the proposals on 30 April.
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