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We have contacted all four potential candidates for the General Election in Bath to ask them their opinions on arts in the city as well as a few other burning issues.  All of the responses from the candidates can be found below.

 

In an effort to keep things fair:

All candidates will be asked the same ten questions.

We will copy and paste the responses straight into the article with no editing so that they remain true statements of what the individual candidates write.

The responses will be listed in alphabetical name order under each question.

 

 

 

  1.      Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

Eleanor Field:

The arts are vital.  Whether it’s a Banksy mural, a Shakespeare play, or a busker in Queen Square, the arts give life colour and context. Many of the greatest and most tragic periods in human history are remembered through art- from the Bayeux Tapestry, to Jane Austen, to the Great War poets the arts have allowed ordinary people to explain the unexplainable and give us a small window into their lives. It is incredibly important that we have space in life to use our imaginations and explore the world, and ourselves, through the arts. On a personal level, imagining my life without the arts is to imagine a life that is simply less interesting and less fun.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

Of course the arts are important, and especially here in Bath.  As a former professional artist I know that the arts help to engage us with our humanity.  Bath’s beautiful buildings began a tradition of our city’s engagement with the arts which has persisted for centuries.  Bath’s dynamic arts scene also makes a vital contribution to our local economy.

 

Ben Howlett:

I think the arts are extremely important, not only as a source of expression for those involved, but as a central pillar in our community and a core part of our culture here in Bath. As a musician and painter myself, I have always supported arts programmes and remember how much I enjoyed participating in the school plays, many years ago. We are very blessed to have so many wonderful shows come to the theatre in Bath as well as many local performances with music, drama and arts groups spread across the city for all ages.


Joe Rayment:

I think the arts are highly important and should never be neglected in policymaking. The arts are part of our cultural tapestry and key to our identity. I also have a fundamental belief that government should not just aim to ensure the survival of its citizens, but that people have access to the things that make life worth living.

I’m proud of Labour’s record on the arts. We made access free to many galleries and museums, the Arts Council has seen its best years under Labour, and we have always defended the BBC.

 

  1.      Do you think Drama and Music are important subjects for children to be learning in schools?

Eleanor Field:

Yes.  Children should have the opportunity to have a varied education and develop skills beyond the standard ‘academic’ subjects. Arts subjects give children the chance to explore their creativity, build confidence, and discover hidden talents. At a time when many families are facing tight budgets, it is even more important that children have the opportunity to access high quality arts education in their schools. Let’s not forget that many of the great figures in the arts first picked up an instrument, painted, or acted in their schools- we cannot allow the arts to become the preserve of the privileged few, they must be open to all!

 

Wera Hobhouse:

Absolutely, very important.  I know from my personal experience as a secondary school teacher that the most exciting times for our children were the school drama productions and music performances.  The arts exercise children’s creativity and help them find out who they are.  Young people learn vital life skills through the arts which academic subjects do not cover.

 

Ben Howlett:

I believe that options for children to learn arts subjects in schools are essential for a well-rounded education. At school, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to play the tuba, something I loved, although I’m not too sure I can play it so well any more.

 

Joe Rayment:

Drama and Music are important for children to learn in schools for three main reasons:

  1. Our arts industry is becoming less representative of our country, with more and more of the most successful people in the entertainment industry coming from private schools. This is not only unfair, but it damages the quality of our art.

  2. Drama and Music are just as valuable to learn as any other subject. A well-rounded education gives rise to a well-rounded person.

  3. There are many transferable skills. For example, public speaking can be greatly improved through Drama lessons in schools.

 

 

  1.      If you were elected would you aim to support the arts in Bath? And if so how?

Eleanor Field:

Bath has a fantastic national reputation for the arts. If elected, I would work with the arts organisations operating in Bath to understand the pressure they are under and how I could effectively represent their interests as MP and ensure their continued success. I firmly believe that the people who work in and contribute to the arts should be central to the process of developing a robust and effective plan to ensure they are properly supported going forward.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

Apart from financial support which is covered in the next question, I will continue to be a regular ‘consumer’ of the arts in Bath, although I will have much less free time to do that if I am elected.  I will speak up for the arts in Bath at every opportunity.

 

Ben Howlett:

Over the last 2 years, I have supported a range of funding bids to the Big Lottery Fund and Arts Council, including to the Holburne Museum’s Pathways to Wellbeing programme, and would continue to support the arts at both a local and a national level, working with the local authority and organisations in Bath. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of the wellbeing sessions at the Holburne Museum as part of Mental Health Awareness Week and was excited  to hear of the broad range of programmes they running to encourage different groups to get involved. I believe it is important that we continue to look for ways to make sure arts programmes can continue.

 

Joe Rayment:

I would. Bath is known for its arts scene among other things, and we must preserve that. See below for how I would support the arts in Bath.

 

 

  1.      The arts budget in Bath has just been severely cut. What would you do to help with investment in the arts in Bath?

Eleanor Field:

Funding is a problem for arts not just in Bath but across the country. As MP I would fight to preserve existing funding and restore funding that has been cut. While the government is putting considerable pressure on local finances we need as many voices in parliament as possible standing up for our shared right to engage with the arts, regardless of our individual economic circumstances. Alongside this, I would also work to establish how best to secure alternative funding from other sources to help minimise the impact of cuts on the arts in Bath in the short to medium term. Now more than ever the arts need a strong and uncompromising voice to stand up for their importance, I would provide that.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

As a former artist myself I know first-hand how tough it can be to make a living from the arts.   A thriving arts scene needs financial support from public and private sources.  If elected I would be an ardent advocate for the arts in Bath and would lobby tirelessly for sponsorship from the Arts Council, the Lottery Fund and other public bodies.  I would also strongly encourage businesses and private individuals to contribute, as I already do myself on a modest scale.

 

Ben Howlett:

I would continue to engage in discussions with BANES Council and the Government to make sure that arts programmes do continue to receive the necessary funding they need to continue to work.

 

Joe Rayment:

The arts cuts have come from Bath & North East Somerset Council, who have had their funding cut by unprecedented amounts since the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government came to power in 2010. The most effective thing that can be done to support the arts in Bath is to vote in Parliament to reverse these cuts to local government grants. That is what I would do as your MP.

 

 

  1.      What was the last live performance you saw?

Eleanor Field:

I very much enjoyed Abigail’s Party at the Bath Theatre Royal in March. The tickets were a Xmas present and I got into the spirit by wearing a green jumpsuit that evening!  My next plan was to attend the Merthyr Tydfil ‘Merthyr Rising’ festival.  However, I’ve had to cancel as it’s at the end of May and I will be busy with election campaigning that weekend.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

The last live performance I attended was last night’s Party in the City.  My favourite was a young cellist, Jo Quail, who played in St Michaels Without, who we saw last year as well.  Her playing was out of this world.

 

Ben Howlett:

The last show I went to see was an excellent performance of Me and My Girl at Prior Park College, here in Bath. The performance was put on by the fantastic, Curtain Up Theatre School, a group I am delighted to support. I am very much looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. All the children are extremely talented and I would encourage anyone who is interested in the dramatic arts in Bath, to find out more.

 

Joe Rayment:

I think it was Stornoway. They’re a great folk-ish band, but unfortunately they have just broken up.

 

 

  1.      What do you think of the current plans to downsize and move Bath Central Library to Lewis House?

Eleanor Field:

I am opposed to the plans to downsize and move Bath Central Library. Our library is a vital resource for the community, and I have used it myself for many years. Reducing the size of the library will rob the community of a much loved space for local people to browse and borrow books, access meeting rooms, and specialist advice,  as well as simply escape for some much needed peace and quiet in the city centre. Lewis House is a crowded multi-use hub and in no way an appropriate home for our library, which would be dramatically reduced in size and scope as a consequence. Libraries are not luxuries and should not fall victim to the increasingly unreasonable budget cuts inflicted on our local authority by central government. If I am elected, I will continue to campaign to maintain and enhance our library service.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

The plan for the Central Library is wrong and I am angry about the way that the Tory Council and the Tory MP are pushing the plan through without listening to the valid complaints of local people.  It seems as if they made up their minds long ago and anyone else’s opinions don’t matter.  This is not how we should do democracy in our city.

 

Ben Howlett:

Over the past 6 months, I have met with many Bath residents to discuss the Library and have listened to their views on the proposed modernisation of services very closely. I pushed the Council to let residents have their say though the consultation. Whilst no decisions have been made, I personally support the modernisation of library services and the opportunities this presents, especially now residents have been consulted on the designs and options for the new library space. I am hopeful that new study and meeting spaces, increased access to internet and Wi-Fi services and the continued provision of books will be made available to residents, whilst maintaining the same, friendly service we have grown used to in the Podium.

 

Joe Rayment:

As a councillor, I have argued tenaciously against these plans to downgrade our main library and turn it into an ‘Argos library’ where you browse books on a computer and then order them in. I have also opposed the further potential closures of branch libraries in Oldfield Park and Weston.

 

 

  1.      What are your thoughts on the East of Bath Park and Ride?

Eleanor Field:

I am very much opposed to the plans for the East of Bath Park and Ride. This scheme is being pushed through by the council against the wishes of a large proportion of local people, especially those closest to the proposed site in Bathampton and Batheaston- not least the owner of the proposed site. These plans would not only fail to solve Bath’s traffic problems but also cause severe, irreparable damage to the beautiful Bathampton Meadows. We need urgent action to tackle the increasing problems with air quality and congestion in the city but this is not the answer.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

The Tory plan to build a Park & Ride on Bathampton Meadows is another example of the Council and the MP completely ignoring local people.  The P&R plan would be a disaster on three fronts:

  1. It would permanently and seriously vandalise the beautiful Meadows

  2. According to the Council’s own report, it would make little difference to the traffic and pollution on London Road.

  3. It would be a monstrous waste of taxpayer’s money

 

Ben Howlett:

Whilst I am unsure how transport policy and the arts are connected, I appreciate this is an issue of some concern locally. As everyone in Bath knows, parking, traffic and air quality are some of the biggest challenges that residents and visitors face. Whilst this is a matter for the elected Councillors in BANES, I agree there is an issue and am keen to work with and support whatever decision they come to. Living in central Bath myself, I experience the difficulties of traffic on a near daily basis and am supportive of innovative thinking to combat the city’s transport woes.

 

Joe Rayment:

I am opposed to the plans for a Park & Ride on Bathampton Meadows. This would blight our countryside and I am unconvinced of the benefits to congestion if it were to be built.

 

  1.      What are your thoughts on the A36/A46 Link Road?

Eleanor Field:

I am opposed to the A36/A46 link road. Having considered the data in support of the proposal myself, I am not satisfied that a link road would have a positive impact on traffic into Bath and indeed there is robust evidence that it may in fact increase car use. Building the road would be very costly, logistically challenging, and cause undeniable environmental and aesthetic damage to the area. While I recognise the need to act decisively to improve our transport infrastructure, any major works must be evidence based and really tackle to underlying issues at play, including car dependency and inadequate, expensive public transport.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

The traffic and pollution in Bath must be solved, but to claim that all we need is an A36/A46 link road is naïve.  It would take 15-20 years to get it built, it would attract more traffic to the A36 which could not cope with it, and it would leave most of Bath’s traffic problem unsolved.

Bath residents would get much quicker relief from the lorries if the alternative route, the A350, had its remaining single carriageways dualled, as is now planned.

Another main cause of congestion in Bath is the school run – we all know how the traffic is much better in the holidays.  There are ways to greatly reduce the number of cars taking kids to school including cheaper and better school bus services and lift sharing schemes.

We also need to entice many commuters out of their cars with improved and cheaper buses and trains (including new stations) and better and safer cycle routes.  I use my bike very day to get myself around the city.

 

Ben Howlett:

I am a big advocate of the A36/46 link road and have championed it over the past 2 years as the MP for Bath. 3 months ago, I presented a petition before the House of Commons with over 3,000 signatures, representing the strength of feeling here in Bath. For too long, HGV traffic has travelled through Bath damaging the air quality and adding to congestion across the city. I believe a link road is not only necessary, but essential in tackling this problem. It is for this reason, I lobbied the new West of England Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, last week, for his support for a feasibility assessment for the project. I hope to continue to work on this project over the coming years.

 

Joe Rayment:

I am open to the idea of an A36/A46 Link Road. However, I am yet to see any proposal which would be both sensitive to the environment and economically viable.

 

  1.      What are your thoughts on the plans for a Bath cable-car?

Eleanor Field:

The proposals put forward by Curo for a cable-car have left me slightly perplexed. While there is an undisputed need for innovative, low carbon solutions to get us out of our cars this seems like a gimmick. What Bath really needs is a joined up, affordable public transport network that allows people to travel throughout the city efficiently, not isolated one hit wonders. I also have concerns regarding the potential impact of the works needed to facilitate this scheme and the impact it would have on our environment, World Heritage Status, and the privacy of those living under its proposed path. Having said that, the fact that these proposals have really got the city talking about how to fix our transport problems can only be a good thing!

 

Wera Hobhouse:

Curo’s cable car idea is interesting but it’s not acceptable in its current format.  Its route badly affects many residents’ homes, it won’t stand up financially without heavy use by tourists, and it would impact the skyline adversely.

 

Ben Howlett:

I am opposed to the plans for a cable car in Bath as I believe this will not provide a solution to Bath’s transport struggles and I am yet to see a viable business case as to how the cable car would work, financially. Adding to this, I have been contacted by hundreds of residents with concerns about the damage this would do to Bath’s World Heritage Status, on top of the privacy issues an aerial tramway would present for those living in Widcombe. I believe innovative thinking should be welcomed in Bath when it comes to transport, but sadly, I can’t put my support behind these proposals.

 

Joe Rayment:

I do not support Curo’s planned cable car. I think that innovative transport solutions are needed, but I don’t think this will significantly reduce congestion. I also think it’s unlikely this will ever materialise and is just a distraction from the pressing issue of the loss of social housing planned at Foxhill.

 

 

  1.  Bath is a World Heritage City – Do you think this is important? What would you do to further enhance and protect this prestigious status?

Eleanor Field:

World Heritage City status is something the people of Bath are rightly very proud of and is incredibly important to the local economy. As MP I would work to ensure that much needed infrastructure developments are sensitive to the responsibilities this status brings. Elected representatives are guardians of the city for future generations and have a duty to balance the need for progress and development with the need to preserve what’s great about the city we live in. I and the Green Party more broadly have continually pushed for innovative, low impact , ‘light touch’ solutions to address our transport, housing, and economic needs- preserving our green spaces and our heritage assets while improving our quality of life and the usability of the city.

 

Wera Hobhouse:

Everything should be done to protect Bath’s World heritage status.  At the same time the city cannot afford to stand still, and ways must be found to improve the city’s infrastructure while respecting its prestigious past.  I think that is possible.

 

Ben Howlett:

I believe this is incredibly important for Bath and something I am very keen to protect here in Bath. As many residents are aware, I have opposed numerous developments on the grounds that they may put Bath’s heritage at risk. Whilst I believe we need to encourage development in the city, we need to be very cautious that we do this in such a way that it does not detract from Bath’s charm.

 

Joe Rayment:

Our World Heritage City status is important and should be treasured, but it cannot mean that we turn our city into a museum. We have an identity that we should retain, but we should not get left behind as the rest of the world modernises.