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With the General Elections coming up on the horizon, I set out on a mission to find out what the potential MP candidates’ views were on the Arts in Bath. Over February and early March I caught up with each member of the different parties and asked the same few questions to get a fair idea of what their views are.

We did try and arrange a meeting with Lorraine Morgan-Brinkhurst but we were unsuccessful which is why there is unfortunately no response from the Independent Candidate below.

Candidates responses are listed in alphabetical order of party.

 

ben4Conservative Party – Ben Howlett:
Twitter: @Ben4Bath

TB: Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

BH: Of course, the arts are absolutely important. I have to admit I’m pretty appalling at amateur dramatics but I am much better at the art and design side of things. I think it’s incredibly important. Also, we should recognise that the arts provide a huge amount of investment into the United Kingdom. We should be working incredibly hard to encourage art and industries around that to grow and flourish, not just because of the economic benefits but also because of the social benefits to it. A lot of the charities I am working with in Bath are to promote things like bringing drama and the arts to more deprived communities, because that enables them to have creative learning, creative therapies and art therapies to help them come out of their shells. So, it also has a huge cultural benefit as well.

 

TB: Do you think Drama is an important subject for children to be learning in school?

BH: Yes, it’s a part of the national curriculum which is really good. There are different ways that Drama can benefit young people, and I say this as a school governor. In terms of Drama it teaches you a number of different things; one is about how to express yourself and we are not just looking at people to come out being able to read, write and getting amazing grades, we are also looking to create all round individuals – Drama has a great ability to do that.

 

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

BH: Not just if I become elected, I already am celebrating the arts in Bath. In Bath we’ve got an amazing arts and cultural sector. It’s a huge sector which provides a large amount of jobs, outward investment and inward investment into Bath. We need to be priming that sector, what I mean by that is that you put in some money to it. You’ve got the Holbourne Museum for example that needs to expand, and the council puts in additional funds in order to make huge amounts of return later on.  Similarly with the festivals here in Bath, I would like to see one big festival – it would take an awful lot of work to put that back on. Local talent, particularly the stuff that is going on at Bath Spa University, should be celebrated. I would aim to champion that if I become MP.

 

TB: What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

BH: Can you call The Globe a theatre? It’s a very strange type of theatre. I went to see Anthony and Cleopatra and that was a Royal Shakespeare Company performance

 

dominic-tristram-splashGreen Party – Dominic Tristram:
Twitter: @DominicTristram

TB: Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

DT: Yes, the arts are important. We think they are actually much more important than other parties and maybe governments have given them credit for because it’s not just all about finance and money it’s about what you get out of life. We think life is about more than just working, paying your bills and adding to the GBP. It’s important and it’s certainly important to people who work in the arts but also just part of being alive is actually having an enriched and cultural life. So, we fully support. We think it should be more accessible, especially live performance. So, yes very important in summary.

 

TB: Do you think Drama is an important subject for children to be learning in schools?

DT: Yes, I think so. It teaches all sorts, it’s not just that it’s important for itself because not everyone wants to go on to be actors but actually I think having drama lessons and having an awareness of drama even if as a participant or just watching it, it helps you appreciate life anyway because all through life we’ve got to have empathy with other people’s feelings and what they’re up to and understanding drama and getting into roles helps you emphasis with other viewpoints – ones you might not have anything to do with your own life and I think that’s interesting. Just talking about my own life; some of the things we studied – both literature and drama actually because in English Literature you read plays – things like being set in different countries or in very poor neighbourhoods or in segregated societies it just helps you understand a different mind-set.

 

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

DT: Yes, obviously I’m going to be realistic, as a single MP I couldn’t change a law just singlehandedly sadly and also there’s a lot to do with the local authority which has a lot of say over what happens in a city or in its area. As an MP I would be able to introduce things like parliament member bills and that sort of thing to help the arts where it was necessary. But actually what I would like to do is just speak up for them and be seen going to them. In Bath – although I’ve had to reduce since having children – I really quite like the small productions in the Ustinov. That’s not to say that I don’t like or appreciate or go to the larger productions but I think it’s really important for regional theatre to have these sort of local play-wrights sometimes – not necessary – but certainly smaller theatres where slightly more cutting edge things can happen. I’d like to draw more attention to the smaller productions because obviously they struggle more with funding and audiences sometimes. I think it would be nice in my role as an MP to talk about them, I’d hope that I’d get some space in the local paper where we can talk about these things and raise awareness of them, because some people just don’t know they happen. People do struggle to put on productions, I’m a fan of subsidy don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should ever expect for some of these productions to be fully commercial because that, by its very nature, means that some people can’t afford to go. You do need some level of subsidy to put on a production and it’s not much money really compare to some things and it does keep an industry going, it keeps people in the city who are working in the theatre and not just theatre – I mean the arts in general. So, I’d like to see at least the same, if not more, a level of subsidy and support. I put pressure on the local authority to maintain that.

 

TB: What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

This isn’t going to sound particularly impressive, because I’ve had a five month old child at home which is a hard job! I think the last thing I saw, having said all that stuff about how I like the Ustinov, is probably Avenue Q – which was in the Theatre Royal not that long ago. It’s a big international production, but it was very good. Before that I think I went to the Rondo to see – I can’t remember the name of it – it was a two man production? I do go less now but I used to go every week and I do intend to do that again.

 

Ollie MiddletonLabour Party – Ollie Middleton:
Twitter: @Ollie_Middleton

TB: Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

OM: Yes, I do. I think the arts generally are a really impeccable part of British culture and identity. I think the arts sector is a vital part of the national economy but here in Bath it is a massively important part of the local economy too. The arts and creative sector usually offer highly skilled and highly paid jobs, they fuel growth and certainly – in Bath’s case – attract tourists from all over the world. So, I think the arts are massively important.

 

TB: Do you think Drama is an important subject for children to be learning in schools?

OM: Yes, I do. I think Drama’s vital; I think it fosters a creative spirit, I think it encourages expression among young people which is really important and also helps build confidence. Obviously, I personally think it’s also really important that we are also giving our young people the greatest level of access to the biggest variety of subjects possible. It’s important that education is not just restricted to traditional academic subjects as well.

 

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

OM: The Labour Party is to producing an arts manifesto, which I think is brilliant. One of the key things for the Labour Party and one of the big issues for me is addressing the issue of funding imbalance between London and the rest of the country. At the moment I think far more money per head is spent in London than in the rest of the country – two or three times as much. So, I would certainly work to do what I can to address that. I would also obviously work within Parliament to do all I can to secure support for the industry in Bath, particularly in the case of funding in the form of national and international grants as well.

 

TB: What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

OM: Well, as you can imagine I don’t have much time these days but I’d thought I’d choose an example in Bath. I went to The Egg a few years back and I saw a really interesting production by a group of young people highlighting the risks of drunk driving. I had a quick look online because I honestly couldn’t remember what it was called but I couldn’t find the name of the production online either. But that was a few years back!

 

key_stevebradleyLiberal Democrats – Steve Bradley:
Twitter: @bradley_steve

TB: Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

SB: Yes I think they’re important, I’d even go as far as to say I think they’re essential. Firstly, any art adds colour, vibrancy, passion, joy and in many ways purpose to human experience. Just think how grey, how monotone, life would be without any form of art or expression. So, it really does add a higher level to human experience. And if we look in Bath we have so many artistic groups, and some of them just do what they do in the most subtle way. Second reason why I think it’s essential, art is probably one of the greatest levellers there is. People often talk about sport as being a great leveller, which it is, but sports (to do well at) a lot of the time you need money whether that be golf or tennis or rugby – you need money to get on in some sports. In arts and any form of art like that it’s much more of a leveller – your talents, your ability and your hard-work will get you somewhere. Obviously not everyone will get discovered but you don’t need loads of money to do well if you’ve got the natural ability and the drive to stick with it. So, it’s a fantastic leveller – as shown by the number of people from all backgrounds who succeed and get somewhere in the world of creativity and art. That’s really important for social mobility and other reasons like that. Thirdly, arts is really important for communication and also for democracy. Often arts can express what words alone can’t – you’ll often find that great art will come with the circumstances. Also, art brings with it a freedom of expression which is a big cause for democracy; the ability for people to express themselves in many ways. For these three reasons I don’t just think it is important I think it is essential.

 

TB: Do you think Drama is an important subject for children to be learning in school?

Yes, I believe in a wide curriculum and there is a lot of pressure at the moment around this idea of teaching traditional subjects. I think that’s not the most appropriate thing for our young people. I passionately believe that every child will have some area of interest or passion within them and if that’s never explored we may never know the depths and the abilities of any particular child. So, I think all of them need a chance to explore a whole wide range of subjects and areas to find out which ones tap into their individual interest or passions. So I think that schools should teach as broad a range of subjects as possible rather than narrowing it down – I would definitely include Drama within that. There is a view that sports absolutely must stay in the curriculum and I would support that because sport exercises the body and is wonderful for physical wellbeing but I would also make the case for arts exercising the mind and being important for mental wellbeing. Finally, there is a ton of evidence to support the role arts can play within the education system.  It’s a core element of personal development in individuals, it really helps their attainment not just in arts and drama but across all subjects, it really helps them get a degree, it really helps them when picking a job. So I would absolutely be against any suggestion that we should narrow it down to the core subjects.

 

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

SB: Yes, I would absolutely support the arts in Bath – I already do in a number of ways. The main ways that I could help as MP (if I was fortunate enough to be selected); firstly, just be a very open and passionate supporter of the arts. So, I would like to attend as many events as I could, to be seen constantly supporting the sector encouraging the sector and enabling it in any way. MPs are spotlights to a certain extent and I would aim to see some of that shining upon the arts in Bath. I’d look to use the role of MP to progress the cause and the emphasis upon the arts in this city. I would want to go to not just be a friend of the arts in Bath, but a friend for the arts in Westminister – fighting the corner for funding, for the attention and for the importance to remain on the arts.  Secondly, in a more practical way, I’ve spoken to a lot of arts organisations in Bath and one big thing that comes up, especially for Creative Arts, is the availability of space to do what they do. We need to get smarter in my opinion with how we deal with space. I would continue as MP to look at really practical and helpful ways to support the arts sector in Bath. Finally, I would look to fly the flag outside of Bath for the arts sector. We have a fantastic artistic scene in Bath. I think it’s really important that the world knows how much vibrant, fantastic artistic activity we have in this city. It’s another reason for people to want to come here.

 

TB: What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

SB: About three weeks ago I went to Noises Off. It was a fantastic production, very clever. It was very well done for a group of amateur dramatists as it’s quite a complex. I went to see that at The Mission theatre. It was their tenth anniversary, so they had drinks afterwards. It was really good to be able to have a chat to the cast about how they got into the arts, how they found working with that particular piece – it was really interesting.

 

UKIPMontageFlag2-675x439UKIP – Julian Deverell:
Twitter: @JulianDeverell

TB: Do you think the arts are important? And if so why?

JD: Yes they certainly are. The arts are a way that people can express themselves. Individual self-expression is something that is really important within a cohesive society. The arts can also be extremely educational, there are an awful lot of important messages and philosophies that are brought to us through art. It is a way that people’s minds are opened to things they would have never otherwise thought of.

 

TB: Do you think Drama is an important subject for children to be learning in schools?

JD: Yes, the ability to be able to stand up in front of an audience is an incredible life skill, not enough people have it. I wish I had a bit more of it. My brother trained as an actor actually, he went to East 15 Acting School in Essex, but I obviously didn’t – I’ve never acted at all. But I think it’s incredibly important for children to be able to learn.

 

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

JD: Bath is a very creative city, there is no doubt about that. You’ve got lots of artists and lots of creative people that come here, and they’re attracted here for good reason. It is that Bath it is like a cultural hub of artistic talent – all types of art. It’s vital that the city nurtures that and that we help those people to be able to come here and do what they do. So, if that’s to run a little theatre, or it’s to run a drama school – my brother for example went to the youth theatre at the Ustinov and having that is a really important thing. So, projects like that they’re essential, nurturing young actors and young creative. Bath wouldn’t be Bath if we didn’t look after those sorts of things.

 

TB: What was the last thing you saw at the theatre?

JD: The last thing I saw was at The Mission theatre; it was a version of Bleak House done by a theatre company that put it into a slight comedy context. It was very entertaining.

 

Do you have a question or comment that you want to make? Why not tweet the candidates using their Twitter handles above and copy us in (@TheatreBath) and use the hashtag #TheatreBathPolitics

 

Article & Interviews by Charlotte Claydon.