Roundhouse chief in warning over cuts to arts education

Warning that funding should not be a battle between sciences and the arts

Monday, 17th May 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Marcus Davey credit Jonathan Birch

Marcus Davey

THE performers of tomorrow may never get the chance to reach their potential due to devastating cuts in arts education, the chief executive of the Roundhouse has warned.

Marcus Davey said he was alarmed that courses considered high cost could fall by the wayside as colleges and universities try to recover from Covid.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said last week that they were “not a strategic priority” – increasing fears that they would be left in the shadow of maths and sciences. Under government budgeting, the King’s Cross based University of the Arts could lose £4m a year.

Mr Davey, whose iconic venue doubles as concert hall and arts college, said: “Government plans to cut funding of arts subjects at universities by 50 per cent is extremely concerning.

“This has come against a backdrop of the government having another drive to push schools further towards the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths] subjects. STEM has been rammed down the public’s throats for a decade.

“People are not perhaps aware that the arts subjects are being lost dramatically and very quickly.”

Citing the economic value of the performing arts, Mr Davey added the cuts could have long-term effects. He said: “Pre-pandemic, the creative arts industries were worth £112bn to the economy. This message is just not getting across. Why would you cut something that is uniquely brilliant to the UK and uniquely brilliant in the world?”

The Roundhouse closed its doors last March – and Mr Davey told the New Journal it meant it lost 70 per cent of its income overnight.

He said: “It was very traumatic. We took advantage of grants but still had to make substantial redundancies and cut costs. We received some funding but it did not replace the income from gigs, events, the bars.”

Money generated from gigs at the venue – which has hosted the likes of Pink Floyd, George Michael and Madness – is poured into providing creative arts training to young people. The Roundhouse’s studios host nearly 10,000 students each year – and Mr Davey hopes to start building up the numbers again as the venue opens in July.

During the past year, the Roundhouse moved the vast majority of its courses online and kept in touch with students to offer extra help.

Mr Davey said: “When we come through this, there will be an explosion in need for designers, for architects, for musicians, actors, technicians. And what did people turn to during lockdown? The creative arts.

“It’s not only that this is a good investment, it puts smiles on peoples faces.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our proposed reforms only affect the additional funding allocated towards some creative subjects, and are designed to target taxpayers’ money towards the subjects which support the skills this country needs to build back better.”

So, why are we fighting this war?

By SUGGS, guest editor

We have seen that on top of art funding and subjects being cut right back already, there are yet more cuts on their way.

The government is trying to turn it into an argument between science and maths versus arts and music. That is not right – why should it have to be one or the other? It always happens to the arts – they are targeted and cut by those who just don’t understand either their economic or artistic value.

And what seems to be forgotten is how playing an instrument, for example, can help you in so many other areas of your life.

Music is a workout for your brain.

I remember reading something Winston Churchill said during the war. It was suggested they cut back on art colleges to help the effort, and he replied that if they are going to cut them, what are we actually fighting this war for?

I thought that was quite a poignant way of putting it. It’s a lifeblood of this country – music, art and entertainment.

Above all, I feel very sorry for younger people, especially having gone through the year we went through.

I feel so sorry that they are not going to have the same opportunities as we had.

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