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The Lib Dems in Liverpool

The Lib Dems have been in town this week and LARC hosted an evening session for delegates.

It started with Andrea Nixon, executive director at Tate Liverpool and then Michael Eakin, the chief executive of the Liverpool Philharmonic giving intelligent, informed, well crafted and impassioned speeches in support of the arts.

This was followed by Don Foster, the Lib Dem culture spokesman giving a political master class on how to handle a room. First off he asked if there were any journalists in the room. Having created the conspiratorial atmosphere he told us a secret.

It was Don’s view that there was no material difference about culture and art between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems. All three of them ‘get culture’. All understand its importance personally, economically and for society. That said, Don pointed out there is no money, so culture will be cut.

Ed Vaizey said the same thing to LARC at a gathering a few weeks before. It removes all the traction for any arguments. They agree with you completely and then say; ‘so anyway cut, cut and cut’.

In Don’s own words, it’s going to be ‘shitty,’ but his view is that this is for the short term as changes to the lottery and the end of the Olympics will help in a few years.

Obviously the arguments for the arts need to continue to be made and will gain some traction as cuts become less about money and more about their impact.

The discussions you can have now, and we did at the conference, are about how to mitigate the impact of the cuts, for instance through LARC’s programme of working together, and about how the money that does remain is distributed.

Here the question of considerably larger funding per head of population in London, which is also better placed to fundraise from the many companies based there (and there are more wealthy philanthropists), comes into play. Don’s comments seemed to hint at a continuation of the imbalance but mitigated by a requirement for the London organisations to work in the regions. To me this doesn’t feel like localism.

Dark hints were also dropped about ensuring specific art forms were protected from the cuts and that this special status would be granted to classical music. I feel at this point the political parties would diverge.

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Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, Bluecoat showcases talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature. As the most ...

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