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Amesbury attacks ConDem’s ‘cultural vandalism’

Councillor rounds on ‘short-sighted’ arts cuts

Published on October 27th 2010.

Amesbury attacks ConDem’s ‘cultural vandalism’

A Manchester city councillor has branded the government’s cuts to arts funding as ‘draconian’ and ‘cultural vandalism’.

Mike Amesbury, executive member for Culture and Leisure and Labour member for Fallowfield, told Confidential he was ‘dismayed’ at the coalition’s decision to slash 30 per cent from Arts Council funding and reduce local government spend in the sector by 28 per cent.

“While reducing the deficit has to be tackled by any government of any political persuasion, the depth and pace is driven by ideological dogma not common sense,” he said.

“To impose such draconian cuts on the arts is nothing short of cultural vandalism. The economic and social renaissance of cities such as Manchester deliberately used culture as a vehicle for growth. Manchester and the broader city region are better places to work live, visit, enjoy, consume and invest in as a result.

“The bold decisions of our Labour city and partners have resulted in the Bridgewater Hall; the Art Gallery transformation, the Peoples History Museum, Sports City facilities and a world class events programme to name but a few.

“While the quite unprecedented cuts will have an impact on the cultural sector we will stand up for the sector and work together to minimise the damage. Furthermore as a city we remain committed to delivering a world class Manchester International Festival, look forward to the opening of the National Football Museum next year and will continue to drive our cultural ambition to create jobs, wealth and enjoyment for all. “

Urbis: still important to city's cultural scene

Some critics may argue that Manchester City Council’s attitude to the arts was clouded by its decision to allow Urbis to close and replace it with the relocating National Football Museum. But Amesbury said the building would still contribute to the cultural economy in its new guise.

“It’s getting £2m a year from the council, just as Urbis did, and it will bring in nearly 400,000 visitors,” he said.

Other institutions were looking to partner up – such as museums and galleries sharing back office functions – but Amesbury said the city could not afford to rely on philanthropy.

“We’re lucky to have some wonderful companies and generous individuals that contribute to the sector but we can’t keep going back to them time and time again,” he said.

“It means events like MIF are even more important in attracting international investment to our arts sector.”

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32 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Peter RivendellOctober 26th 2010.

I couldn't be more dismayed by the arts funding cuts but how anyone can cite the opening of the National Football Museum as an example of supporting the arts is beyond me. Wayne Rooney could fund that out of his personal salary. I suggest that he should.

Patron of the ArtsOctober 26th 2010.

Why do we give away 7 billion in overseas aid ? no wander we have so many cuts!

AnonymousOctober 26th 2010.

Mike Amesbury has made an idiot of himself at the council, on his blog, and even on here. Why even give him the time of day?

hmmmOctober 26th 2010.

I'd rather MP for fallowfield clean up fallowfield than worry about art, but anyway...

We don't give away the overseas aid Patron of the Arts, massive chunks of it are actually loans and are owed back to us (Hence Bono's campaign to drop the debt).

End of the day, would you rather have debt that would last well into our children's lives, or miss out on a bit of art of for a few years. I say lose the art. And if we want football museum, for gods sake get one of the football grounds to sponsor it.

Fact-checkOctober 26th 2010.

So, leaving aside whether shutting Urbis in favour of re-locating a failed museum from Preston was a good idea or not, I'm not totally sure about Mr Amesbury's attack.

Firstly, where does it say in the csr that there's a reduction of 28% in local government spend on the arts sector? The CSR has led to a reduction in local government overall grants at that level.

Is Mr Amesbury saying that this will be applied directly across the board in Manchester? MCC actually does have a choice over where this falls (the csr has also, after all, taken down the barriers between budgets that meant everything had to be ring-fenced). If culture is so important, it's for Amesbury to argue with his colleagues that it shouldn't suffer cuts at this level. The AGMA announcement need not have been made at all. That's the CHOICE of the councils involved.

Secondly, it's fine to attack the government for the supposed cuts (not actually cuts at all as the total of public expenditure is going to go up over the period). But Labour have also said that they would have introduced 'cuts' ('greater than under Thatcher' according to Alistair Darling in March). So, if not culture, if not welfare, what exactly would they have cut? It wouldn't have been defence or the nuclear deterrent. Please don't say better pursuit of tax evasion as it was Labour's budget reductions at HMRC that have left us unable to properly pursue tax evaders (which is being reversed by the government). So, what would they have cut?


Football isn't ArtOctober 27th 2010.

Create jobs Mr Amesbury? Is that how you describe making 70 people redundant at Urbis and replacing them with staff who travel in from Preston every day? The NFM was a disaster in Preston and with the same people running it in Manchester expect more of the same.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

The football museum will bring people into the city centre, creating revenue and therefore securing and creating jobs. Football may not be art but it certainly is culture and will be much more popular now it's in a major city. We can have a truly world class football museum, Urbis struggled to compete on a national stage. Let's face it, it wasn't very good and just as you criticise the preston football staff, you equally must then criticise the Urbis staff.

Kevin PeelOctober 27th 2010.

These cuts will be devastating to Manchester's vibrant arts scene. They are also incredibly short-sighted - the arts play a huge role in bringing money into the region, boosting the economy and the Treasury coffers. The arts also have a vital role in areas such as education and health. Inevitably ticket prices will rise, pricing out people on lower incomes and making the arts accessible only to a rich few. Once again this government shows its contempt for the least well off and for the UK's creative industries.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Kevin, face the facts. We have to make cuts and cutting back spending on arts for a bit as opposed to a lot of other areas is much better. Would Manchester really have been a much worse place had Urbis never existed? Could the money have been spent better? As for 'this government shows its contempt', this is actually a council decision, you've simply fallen for Amesbury's bull.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Why is the Labour member for Fallowfield available for comment on this article but not the article about the awful state of fallowfield/withington?

BlahOctober 27th 2010.

Anonymous, the tragedy about closing Urbis was that it was just starting to get a national and international reputation, and then it got canned. Some of its exhibitions in the last few years were getting major coverage, and it did a lot for the creative commmunity in the city (which no one else is doing).
As for the footie museum bringing people into the city...who exactly? Its an English Museum, not a world museum...no Irish or Scots would want to go there (except to throw stones). Its full of old tickets and programmes. People might visit if there already here. But come to the city for it? Never.

Simone13024October 27th 2010.

Blah you strike me as someone who is biased against the new Urbis idea. Whether you like it or not, football is a major draw and away supporters who usually just go to the ground may now be more likely to come to the city. Each week we have tens of thousands of football supporters visit Greater Manchester, get a fraction of those and it's result (excuse the pun). Urbis had been around for quite a while and to be 'just starting to get a reputation' is not good enough. If just some of exhibitions were getting coverage then what of the others? I think I'm nearly unique on here (everyone else seems to be incredibly biased) to be able to say I like arts and football. The number of time I went to Urbis goes into double figures but each time I was always a little disapointed. The best event being Buy Art Fair. Urbis is a fantastic building in a great location that needs to be a major attraction. Done correctly the football museum will be just that. And what a celebration of a major local culture we should be proud of!

J E SibberingOctober 27th 2010.

BLAH, I'm intrigued to know what evidence you have to support your opinion that no-one will bother to visit Manchester just for the Football Museum?

Surely visitors arrive here for a wide variety of reasons, the depth/breadth of our cultural offer being one of many. The National Football Museum will add to this.

Simone13024October 27th 2010.

Let's be honest. From Toronto to Timbuktu, from Sydney to Singapore, from Edinburgh to Exeter, if you mention Manchester, you don't get people going 'Oh, yeah, the Manchester art scene is amazing. I was thinking of going to see Urbis and then a film at the Cornerhouse.' You get 'Ah football, United, and now you have City too. I've always wanted to go to Old Trafford.' etc etc. A little helping nudge for football fans to visit what is increasingly regarded as one of, if not the, captials of football is something to be proud of. It's what we're known for and in this economy we need to market ourselves in the most effective way.

BlahOctober 27th 2010.

Well, let's just wait and see...
Tblzebra--no one bothered to visit Preston for it did they?
And Simone, that might be the case, but people want to watch the matches don't they, not see cases full of old footballs (and most museums take well over a decade to build their reputation...)

Blah, blah, blahOctober 27th 2010.

Blah you're a fool. English football has been full of Irish and Scottish managers and players. English football created the world game, for anybody who loves football it's the fountain of life. Also it's an city which has within its club's home games more than 100,000 fans per fortnight: Preston had 12,000. Also the museum is in the city centre not in a tiny stadium on the periphery.

Blah blah blah blahOctober 27th 2010.

Like I say, let's wait and see. I'm not denying more people will go the museum in Manchester. What I'm suggesting is that it won't bring new people to the city (which is what the investment would need to justify it).
Well, that's the staff of the football museum entertained for an afternoon...

Simone13024October 27th 2010.

Blah, you seem a bit bitter about the whole thing and to want it to fail. Did you ever see the Preston site? Middle of nowhere. Anyway, Manchester United's museum got more visitors than Urbis even thought there is a hefty charge. A football museum that isn't club specific but still celebrates our local teams could become the most visited attraction in the city.

BlahOctober 27th 2010.

But that's the point Simone...club museums get visitors because people like and follow the clubs. That's why every football museum anywhere in the world is connected to a club or a stadium.
And, yes, I visited the museum in Preston.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Football supporters are not just interested in their own clubs, that's incorrect. Take the World Cup, masses of the country were pre occupied with teams like Ghana and Uruguay. People appreciate great players, matches, triumphs of clubs except their rivals and they still can't get enough of even the ones they hate the most! Urbis failed, this will be a uch better use and no doubt when the visitor numbers do exceed your expectations, you'll be complaining about the wrong kind of visitor.

Simone13024October 27th 2010.

Blah, I think you're making every negative assumption you possibly can. I have no doubt the museum will have a local edge, like the one in Preston did. So you'll get local supporters as well as those visiting. It could be a great attraction for kids too, a few interactive displays and you could have people making many repeat visits. Then there's the commerical aspect which no doubt has been thought about.

J E SibberingOctober 27th 2010.

BLAH, how do you know no-one visited Preston just to see the Football Museum? Didn't you?

You haven't read my post properly; people rarely visit a city for only one reason, there's usually a combination, unless they're here for a Conference. Then again, conference venues are not chosen just on the basis of there being a big enough hall and bed spaces.

People who visit Man Utd Museum/Tour are not all supporters, many are foreign visitors who go because it's a famous football club, and for no other reason.

Football isn't ArtOctober 27th 2010.

Check the figures, the NFM lost a lot of money in Preston as a tiny museum. They now have four times the floor space so in theory should comfortably lose four times the money. Good choice. Urbis got better and better year on year, so if that is failure then how do you measure success?
Good museums bring people into Manchester. Not a bad football one.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

There's a myth that people with an interest in art are intelligent, this thread is doing much to dimiss that.

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Has anyone mentioned art? What does that have to do with either football or Urbis?

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Anon2, perhaps the name 'Football Isn't Art' may shed some light.

bra braOctober 27th 2010.

wonder what (rich) football players themselves could contribute to "art and culture" here? opening restaurant? attending fashion show?

PATRON OF THE ARTSOctober 27th 2010.

EDITORIAL COMMENT. This rant has been deleted because of its content and because it was written in capitals. If the author wants to talk to the editor directly why this keeps happening please email jonathans@manchesterconfidential.com

AnonymousOctober 27th 2010.

Oh no. Dont tell me the permanently outraged, shouty, pitchfork-waving lunatics that inhabit the MEN comment pages have finally found their way over to ManCon.

Sir Terry LeahyOctober 27th 2010.

I wanted this classy building for a new Tesco store.

I rang Sir Richard Lease and offered him triple club card points to push it my way...unfortunately he told me that Sir Howard Bernstein was threatening to leave for Blackpool because of the city's lack of cultural ambition.

Apparently Sir Howard did a complete u-turn when MCC managed to secure the football museum! MCC had to promise to spend £200k per week on interactive prostitutes to enable visitors to get a 'broad feel' of life as a pro footballer!

They are even going to offer under privileged locals free courses on how to conduct highly leveraged buyouts with chuff all of their own money and then siphon off the profits through tax efficient off-shore holding companies...

To compensate me, Sir Richard has now offered to buy some old fire station so I can convert it into one of our new concept stores called 'Tesco Family.' Recession hit punters will be able to trade-in family members for massive discounts on booze, fags and rizzla's.

Please don't thank me! When it comes to the cultural development of Manchester - MCC knows that 'every little helps...'

Missing the pointOctober 28th 2010.

Ignoring the pointless sniping, surely it's not about whether old Urbis or the football museum are better. But that we should be able to have both. Closing one to open the other doesn't equate to 'driving cultural ambition'. The old Urbis maybe shouldn't have stayed in that building (which isn't great as a museum or gallery anyway), but was very individual and very mancunian. It's a real pity there don't seem to have been any attempts (as far as anyone knows) to re-locate it or its staff.

AnonymousOctober 28th 2010.

Time to sack all those pointless 'arts' employees at the city council too. They are a waste of money.

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