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Nottinghamshire County Council’s recent decision to cut its £100,000 grant to Nottingham Playhouse highlights a much wider national issue.
The Playhouse is a repertory theatre of national renown often featuring productions which then transfer to London.
Of course we all acknowledge the pressures on public spending. Cutting cultural funds can of course seem to be a politically safe thing to do in these circumstances.
However, it is not as simple as that.
I spend a fair bit of time trying to sell my local area, Nottinghamshire. A vibrant economy means more clients and therefore more profit for the law firm where I work. That in turn, of course, means more staff employed in an area leading, ultimately, to a greater public sector “take.” I also saw this at close quarters when I was a board member of “Experience Nottinghamshire”, the organisation set up to market the City and County.
So anything that prejudices a theatre like the Playhouse is nothing short of cultural nihilism. l cannot talk in any expert way about its artistic significance but I see it in a hard-nosed way as being part of a very strong local cultural offer which in turn is of huge worth in gaining and retaining rate paying businesses and individuals within the area. Look further and try to find a pre-theatre restaurant booking when the Theatre Royal and Concert Hall are all open? This really illustrates the positive economic knock-on benefits of the sector as well.
I wrote a piece in our local newspaper, the Post, a couple of years ago headed “Nottingham, Capital of Culture – Why Not?” Neither County nor City Councils took up the challenge. Hull did. And that is a city which has nothing to compare on the cultural level with Nottingham. Yet it is Hull which will now reap the benefits.
Even on a purely economic case, supporting the Nottingham Playhouse and cultural sector generally (and the quality of life it creates) is where the combined resources of City and County should be focused rather than starting a race to the bottom.