There’s nothing to say our council shouldn’t support an art offering in the town, but it needs to think really hard about what art it is fair to support whilst simultaneously complaining about its funding, writes Conservative Group Leader Tim Pollard.
Croydon Council has taken a richly-deserved pummelling in the last ten days about its promotion of a festival in the summer which included ‘performances’ of on-stage defecation and displays of sex toys and included a performance entitled ‘demystifying the anus’. In one of these performances a performer was bunged up to take away control over their orifices and microphones attached so that the audience could hear the associated gurglings and rumblings of their innards.
A total of £17,000 of our money was spent on this so-called ‘art’, through a £10,000 cash grant and the free use of the Braithwaite Hall valued at £7,000. And that’s on top of an Arts Council grant of £30,000, making up a total public-purse subsidy of £47,000.
And this against a backdrop of a Labour-controlled council which, on a weekly basis, complains that it is being starved of cash by ‘austerity’. So it, apparently, has the money to sponsor this but not to run a competent Children’s Services department.
I’m pleased to say that I didn’t see the performances in question – not because I chose not to go, but because the council was uncharacteristically shy about promoting its involvement (I wonder why….?!). I have yet to meet anyone who was even aware that this ‘Festival’ took place, let alone went along to see it.
I’ll be frank and say that this sort of art is not my thing. But I don’t object, in principle, to it being staged if there is an audience which is prepared to shell out to see it or commercial sponsors who want to be associated with it. But what I am not happy about is public money – our money – being used for this instead of improving social care or purchasing library books or….. almost anything which is the core business of the council.
I suspect the reason for the council’s bashfulness about its involvement – and its refusal to put up a spokesman to debate with me whether it had been right to do this – is because it realised after committing that it had dropped a clanger. And in so doing it reveals the casualness and lack of foresight it routinely applies to spending our money. Whether it is in spending millions on un-necessary extra bins, or £32 million in buying hotel without any form of public scrutiny pre-purchase, this is a council which cannot be trusted with our money.
You can listen to the council-and-performer-free discussion on this issue on BBC Radio London last week here.