Looking at a handbook for participatory arts workers I wrote in 1994, I came across this list of reasons why the work deserves public funding. I could think of a few more today: if you have others, please share them in the comments below.
Public funds should be spent on community-based arts activities because:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory, defines participation in the cultural life of the community as a basic human right.
- Control of their own cultural identities strengthens the ability of individuals and groups to participate equitably in the local community and the democratic process.
- Millions of people do not have access to the existing provision for economic, physical, social, or cultural reasons.
- Spending on the arts is determined by criteria which unfairly disadvantage certain artforms, ways of working and cultures.
- Terms of access to the arts should not be determined by any single sector of society to the disadvantage of any other.
- Investing in the cultural vitality of local communities improves the quality of life of those who lives there.
- They are the constantly-renewed base of the arts in general, and so contribute to an important and successful sector of the economy.
- Broadening the range of people involved in the arts challenges existing aesthetic values and enriches the arts and culture generally.
- The huge response to community-based arts activities proves that people want them.
- The work which results is fun exciting unpredictable, infectious, positive, awkward, imaginative, challenging and human.
From Matarasso, F. (1994) Regular Marvels: Handbook for animateurs, practitioners and development workers in dance, mime, music and literature. Leicester: Community Dance & Mime Foundation, pp 6-7.