Countryfile Exposes the Funding Crisis in Rural Areas

02 July 2019

Should we be paying out for Rural Arts?

 “Art fights loneliness and isolation really well and local theatres and arts centre, it’s exactly the sort of thing we stand for. It’s not posh stuff in the evening, it’s social glue.” Actor Samuel West   

Watch here:

Available until 22 July 2019.

Starts 7 mins in and finishes 14 mins in.   

What's the Story?

On the 23 June 2019 Tom Heap presented a story on Countryfile about the under funding of the Arts in rural areas and how incredibly valuable they  are for the health and well-being of individuals and communities.  

There is no denying, rural communities are getting a raw deal when it comes to funding for arts and culture. There are nearly 12 million people living in the UKs countryside and around nine million in London but the disparity in funding is huge.  

In England the Arts Council’s main funding pot allocates rural areas just £5.50 per head compared to London’s £18.  

On the face of it that’s a pretty sad state of affairs.  

The programme goes on to talk to Rural Arts Yorkshire and members of the community who benefit from funded art classes in their communities. The message is something we know all too well at Take Art - access to the Arts is great for well-being. It enables people to make friends, keep their minds active and helps prevent social isolation.  

 “A lot of the work we do comes from a health perspective, it’s about using arts to make people’s day to day lives better. If we create a narrative where by you can only access culture in the city. You can only live a vibrant healthy active life in urban areas, what we will see is a decline in investment in rural areas. Every community needs to keep Arts at its heart. Otherwise I think we are lost.”Max May, art class Director, Rural Arts Yorkshire  

The reality is despite the obvious positive effect of Arts in the community and the knock on benefits to public services, local government spending has dropped by 10.6 billion in the last eight years. Again, it’s the rural areas that suffer most with almost a third of arts funding having been slashed.  

There is also a huge funding gap between what larger arts organisations are receiving and the money allocated towards grassroots funding associations. Prestige and might win over access and community.  Pentabus Rural Touring Theatre Company based in Shropshire say their public funding has not gone up for eight years and they would be keen to see the coffers shared out more evenly.  

What was continually impressed by the programme was the value of rural arts on health and well-being. The Arts can play a vital role in tackling some of the key social and health issues of the times – and it’s about time more money was invested into the hearts of our communities.  

Samuel West went onto say, “If you think that more of this stuff should go on in your village or your community you should be writing to your MP's and your Councillors, saying this stuff is important to you because it brings us together and it makes us happier and healthier and more human.”  

You can still watch this excellent film on BBC iplayer until 22 July 2019. Remember it’s 7 minutes in.