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National and regional outcry against County culture funding cuts

The proposal by Oxfordshire County Council to cut its entire culture budget by 2018 has been met with opposition by residents and received front page coverage by national press.

Of the 95 savings options identified by Oxfordshire County Council, the complete halt to funding of arts organisations (including Pegasus) was by far the most frequently commented on. Of 3,184 responses, this single proposal received 548 written responses (17% of total).

Typical responses shared with us include:

I think this is one of the important contributions that Pegasus gives to the community. Children from backgrounds that could be so much better are welcomed with open arms to engage and have the chance to be somebody they possibly never thought they could be. Participant’s parent

The proposed cuts would devastate Pegasus’ ability to operate as it does; providing access to art for all, regardless of ability or background; providing crucial artistic mentorship and support to emerging artists; providing alternative means of expression and understanding to vulnerable and at-risk groups, with a ‘profound’ impact on how they see themselves, according to Oxford University Research. Please for the sake of current and future generations in Oxfordshire, continue to invest in this artistic beacon in the region. Pegasus Supported Artist

These concerns about threats to funding from local authorities have been echoed across the country. In its front-page article last week ‘The Stage’ led with a headline: Local cuts are ‘main threat to theatre in 2016’ and highlighted the situation in Oxfordshire as one its key examples. Many senior figures have spoken out:

“the arts sector must not lose sight of the real danger posed by the massive cut to local authorities-”. Charlotte Jones, Chief Executive, Independent Theatre Council

“brutal cuts to local authority funding mean that the gap in resources, and thus provision between the regions and London is only set to increase” David Edgar, Playwright

“It means less new work, fewer new artist training opportunities and a worrying decline in outreach such as youth theatres.” Fin Kennedy, Artistic Director, Tamasha

As a direct result of the core support received from Oxfordshire County Council, Pegasus is able to work in partnership with organisations and charities across the county to deliver a wide range of projects benefiting the health, education and emotional support of young people. Beyond the many courses and classes at the venue are a number of important outreach activities supporting learning and social development. These include: a schools literacy programme called Tale Trail; a new play ‘Under My Skin’ on the subject of self-harm touring to 25 secondary schools across Oxfordshire; a targeted programme Added Extra for young people who are vulnerable or at risk of exclusion from school; and working in partnership with Oxfordshire Library Service on Find Your Voice, a project about democracy and empowering young people.

Pegasus’ Artistic Director and CEO Jonathan Lloyd commented:
This core funding from Oxfordshire County Council is a crucial part of a wider web of funding that supports our work with disadvantaged young people. If it is cut, it threatens our longer-term future. Our ability to respond to opportunities to work with Public Health, Libraries and Children, Education and Families would be severely restricted, and we would struggle to run the level of service that is so clearly valued and cherished by many local residents and their families.


Editors’ notes

Oxfordshire County Council’s annual cultural budget of £98,000 is currently shared between three arts organisations: Pegasus, Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership (OYAP) and Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency (OVADA). Pegasus receives £68,266 (69% of the total).

The County Council’s consultation process drew 3,184 responses. In the papers available to the public regarding the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting of 17th December, the summary report on the consultation process includes a table listing the most frequently commented on savings options. The proposal to ‘cease funding of arts centres’ (LCS2) received 548 written responses.

Oxfordshire County Council is one of the Pegasus core funders. Other funders are Arts Council England (£299,973 p.a) and Oxford City Council (£25,000 p.a).

The Pegasus literacy programme Tale Trail is working with six primary schools across the county: Millbrook School (Grove), Rose Hill Primary School (Oxford), St. Francis CE School (Oxford), East Oxford Primary School, Drayton Community Primary School and Great Milton CE Primary School. The pupils involved will be sharing their work in a staged performance at Pegasus on 28 and 29 January.

Pegasus is working with the Public Health team at Oxfordshire County Council in developing and staging a new play Under My Skin for teenagers on the subject of self harm that is touring to 25 secondary schools around the county in March this year.

Added Extra is an ongoing organised programme for vulnerable young people and those who are at risk of being excluded from school. It involves outreach work as well as courses based at the theatre. Added Extra was the subject of a recently published report from the University of Oxford entitled ‘Being Other: The Effectiveness of Arts Based Approaches in Engaging with Disaffected Young People.’ which stated that involvement in arts based programmes had the potential to change young people’s lives.

Pegasus has been working with young people since 1962 and is one of the oldest youth arts organisations in the UK. Its programme of creating youth arts in a professional venue brings high status and value to youth theatre and creative learning, rarely seen outside the capital. Last year 3,836 young people attended our courses, workshops, events, school and outreach projects.

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