Part of our experience of being human is communication, the chance to get out of the box and be transported. To meet with new people you normally would not meet in the personal bubbles our lives are becoming. By meeting different people we learn more about what being human and comradeship is.
There are very few artifacts about when we made that great leap forward as a species. Mostly we imagine, imprint our modern day attitudes onto how people lived. One of the earliest and enduring are cave paintings. I have to admit about being fascinated by these beautiful images. Handprints stories of hunts. They have survived and speak to us today. The people who drew them did so to communicate. I imagine the beginnings of language and society. People telling stories around a fire making shadows on the wall to entertain. I may be wrong though, maybe these are the works of petulant teenagers well before the invention of posters and tacks decorating the walls.There I go again, 21st century girl However they make me imagine and I am all the better for these flights of fancy.
The arts help our health be it singing in a community choir, a spoken word event. I would argue they are more affective than a course of CBT sometimes. It is sad to see them being cut then as budgets are slashed. I watched at the weekend in dismay at the weekend hearing about the proposed cuts in Stirling which may mean the closure of The Smith Institute and Big Noise. Elspeth King ex curator of the People’s Palace in Glasgow is now the curator of The Smith. I remember in the eighties sitting in awe of Elspeth wishing I had the courage to talk about the amazing space celebrating working class history. It was a favourite haunt. Just last year Big Noise had a concert highlighting the skills of the young musicians who have had the chance to learn an instrument. It is based on a South American project and is based in the Raploch. Both these places are to lose their funding as Stirling Council and Creative Scotland have to make cuts.
The Arts are an easy target. Money has to be found for services so what does the cut to a local art activity mean? I raised my children in poverty. My daughter’s life was enriched by being a chorister in The Abbey Choir, drama classes and musical tuition. The tuition was free but there were lots of extra costs, the drama group was expensive but she learned so much and as a young carer these activities gave her a break from her caring role. The Arts are not just about “high art” but for all. In London we passed The Royal Concert Hall it was an opening night and people came out of Bentleys wearing furs and dripping with jewellery. I know how expensive the seats are and hope the audience had a good time but the old saying of John Lennon playing the Palladium with the Beatles in the sixties came back to me. “Would those in the front row rattle their jewellery. I must add that Scottish Opera does have good concessions. If you are lucky you can get a ticket for a fiver and it is a wonderful spectacle. In Italy Opera is not just the confines of the better off but enjoyed by many.
The Arts are for everyone they nourish our souls, they challenge our viewpoints. They teach us about issues we may never have thought of before. This is why I signed the letter regarding the cuts to disability theatre. One of the groups facing a funding crisis is Birds Of Paradise. I remember 25 years ago (ouch). One of their first performances was The Snow Queen. The actors all had a learning disability. I still remember the young woman who played Gerda she was amazing but everyone was involved. It was amazing to see. My friend Kevin joined them very early on, it was a whole new world to him. It is not just about the performance though it is the workshops educating an audience and at its heart empowerment.
I think of people like Darren Loki McGarvey and Rachel Jury who give voices to those not always listened too. I think about Create in Paisley a group of young people in Paisley who are involved in so many creative projects with young folk. My daughter volunteers with them, has been on a youth exchange to Slovenia she is giving back a little of what she knows are important.
That is why I am saying the Arts and libraries are not an optional extra but a vital spark in our communities especially. Those who face barriers should get support to enjoy and snatch an hour pr so to meet with friends, to sing to paint, to write. For me watching a play or reading a book are respite. I can escape to other worlds and imagine. Imagination is what makes us human and keeps us warm. I wonder what 25th century girl will make of us? Recording that is part of what art is all about. No more cuts to local communities make us resilient and listen to the voice of those who perform and become a participant yourself. Two of my favourite books are about pedagogy in society and I recommend you read more about Alberto Boal and Paulo Freire about who defines what is important those who experience it should be all about.