Culture Minister asked to step in to stop Westminster Council’s £350k Arts cuts

Labour Councillors have called on Culture Secretary Maria Miller to step in to stop Westminster Council axing its entire £350,000 Arts and Culture budget

In a letter to Ms Miller, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, says;

I am writing to ask you to use all your considerable influence with your colleagues on Westminster City Council to stop the Council from cutting its entire £350,000 a year budget for Arts and Culture over the next two years.

The current programme is designed to give the most vulnerable residents of Westminster – the young, those with disabilities and the elderly – an opportunity to improve their lives through the arts and through culture. The cut of £350,000 represents 0.4% of the Council’s spending.

The whole city will be poorer through the loss of these innovative projects. It is short-sighted of the Council to reduce community access to Westminster’s wonderful array of world-class arts and culture. If anything, we should be making more of these magnificent cultural facilities and arts organisations on our doorstep, rather than reducing access to them for children, young people and the elderly.

Examples of the programme that are currently funded by the Council and which will be affected by the axing of financial support are;

  • Soho Theatre – Creative writing and literacy skills programme with the Soho Young Company with the offer of Work Experience for Westminster school students from aged 15, Front of House shadowing scheme with a chance of permanent employment at Soho Theatre.
  • Paddington Arts and DreamArts – A city-wide performing arts programme delivered by two established youth arts services offering termly workshops in
    drama, dance, singing and media for 6-26 year olds.   The programme offers volunteering opportunities and help with pathways to further education and leadership training for children and young people from the most deprived wards.
  • Serpentine Gallery – Film project, workshops, family days, Serpentine late events and screenings that takes place in South Westminster, inspired by the theme of transition which will address disadvantaged students’ fears and concerns about the period of transition between primary and secondary school.
  • Dream Arts in a consortium with Paddington Development Trust, Paddington Arts and Vital Regeneration – A new consortium formed to offer tailored creative services for children and young people at risk that will support the Council’s Your Choice framework to tackle youth violence.
  • Streetwise Opera – Streetwise Opera aims to empower people who have experienced homelessness, through collaboration in staging professional opera productions and workshops, giving a platform for ideas and helping people to re-build feelings of self-worth and confidence.
  • Union Dance – Union Dance provides education in choreography, dance styles, health and fitness for young people aged 16-25 live, work or study in Westminster of mixed dance ability.  Union Too, the youth arm of the professional company Union Dance, will provide regular dance training sessions for Westminster young people at Pimlico Academy
  • Westminster Mind – A 12 week recovery programme of creative workshops and tasters tailored to the needs of vulnerable adults not currently in care, supporting them to regain independence and access volunteering opportunities and work placements in professional arts organizations.
  • English National Ballet – Two strands of dance activities for older people that cater for the diverse range of needs in Westminster day care centres and Older People’s Hubs.  Tailored workshops and Parkinson’s awareness tasters led by Parkinson’s UK.

As you may know, there is a petition on the Council’s website that has already attracted over 700 signatures –
I urge you to act now to save these valuable Arts and Culture programmes.”

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