Unfortunate News for WIPN: “Barbarians At The Gates”

The following is a release entitled “Barbarians at the Gates” from Writers In Prison Network (WIPN), the program we focused our attention on in our last post here at CLCM. In addition to this piece, WIPN has sent the following message:

We’ll have something up on our website at the beginning of the next week.  Meanwhile here are a couple of e-mail addresses you might find useful:

Arts Council’s Chair, Dame Liz Forgan, <chiefexecutive@artscouncil.org.uk>
Ros Robins, Regional Director West Midlands ACE <ros.robins@artscouncil.org.uk>
“Ceri Gorton” our ACE lead officer <Ceri.Gorton@artscouncil.org.uk>
Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey <vaizeye@parliament.uk>

Barbarians at the Gates

For those who don’t know ACE cut all our funding from 2012.  We have sufficient funding confirmed to survive until September 2012.  For those who already know here’s where we can go from here (new ideas welcome).  All of you join the fight.  We can win.

What we do is brilliant.  What you do is brilliant.  WIPN, WIRs and our co-workers are the jewels in our crown.  We know that what we do is beyond compare.  Clearly the Arts Council, for all their kind (and sincere) words of praise does not share our view to the point of continuing our funding in the National Portfolio.   (But kind words don’t pay wages.) This does not represent the ‘balance’ ACE claim to have sought; our absence from the Criminal Justice System leaves a serious, irretrievable hole.  No one is doing what we do.  In the future no one will be doing it at all.  A yawning gap has opened up in the national arts strategy.  One of the most excluded sectors of our society has been further marginalised, excluded.  It is not enough to argue that Geese, TiPP Clean Break fill the gap.  Fine companies, doing brilliant work but focused exclusively on theatre.  What of creative writing, oral storytelling, video, audio/radio, journalism, publishing?  Who will be delivering that?  Answer: no one.  No one.

What are we to now that the sky has fallen in?  Give in?  No chance.  We are tough, resilient, resourceful, creative.  ACE has offered some marginal (and welcome) help and we welcome it.  But there are other more powerful and effective things we can do for ourselves.

ACE has torpedoed our ship and now offers a lifeboat.  What we need is another ship and, with your help, we will find one (see the attachment).  Protest, by all means.  Raise WIPN’s profile, certainly.  Find alternative funding, absolutely.

So, in passing, who is to blame for this criminal decision?  Hopefully not WIPN, we put in our best possible, application, rated Strong/Good by ACE at Stage 1, discarded at Stage 2 as not fulfilling the grand 10 year vision of the Arts as much as other companies.  When was the last time someone from the Arts Council actually came into your prison to see firsthand what fantastic work you’re doing?

Where do the cuts come from?  We all know we face a serious problem with the national finances, from which ACE’s bounties flow.  Name your culprit – the last Labour government, the world economic downturn, the bankers (must spell-check that one), the idiot Osborne – tick one or more.  Yet the savings from the Arts are mere chickenfeed and WIPN’s portion only breadcrumbs from the table.

But, no, WHO is applying these cuts, fast, furious, and sometimes lethal?  It’s the Coalition Government, the LibDems (pause, while I spit feathers).

Don’t shoot the messenger.  The Minister for the Arts, ACE could certainly have stood up more strongly and defended our small corner but they didn’t.  ACE are only delivering what the Government demand in their barbaric, heavy-handed manner.  Frontline public services, libraries, the arts, women and children, disadvantaged groups, young people in education, prisons, they’re all soft targets.  How much does each Cruise missile cost, Trident, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya?  Where are the government’s priorities?

The Cleggeron is a mighty weapon with a fatal flaw.  When set in motion it swerves wildly to the right and makes cuts in every direction, blind and unfeeling.

Our aim must be to deny the Barbarians at the gate.  We are one of the last civilising influences in the Criminal Justice System, we must not disappear like a ripple on a pond.  We are the stone, not the ripple.

So begins the great campaign to raise us from the dead.  We have 18 months to breathe life into our kicking and protesting corpse.  ACE can still help but they are not the answer.  We, you are the answer and we will survive.

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