Yesterday’s The Sentinel reported that Arts Council West Midlands and Stoke-on-Trent City Council will be pumping £35,000 of taxpayers’ money into a summer dance event named “A Game of 2 Arfs” in a familiar effort to “make dance a bit more accessible to those who wouldn’t normally go to see it” i.e. those who are really very interested in it.
But don’t let the name lull you into a false sense of security, very little of this project has been planned as the primary function of the article is to appeal to “BMXers, freerunners, skaters and wheelchair users” between the ages of 15-80 (though I doubt those at the top of that age range will have much experience of anything but the latter) to attend a workshop, where they will presumably devise much of what will be showcased to those who normally choose to avoid such events.
Any further content is mysterious to say the least, with the Artistic Director stating, “There will be a now and then theme which will also involve poets”.
Four local dance companies will also be providing some entertainment.
The project clearly has an emphasis on involving disabled performers and encouraging their participation in the arts, perhaps an admirable cause but by no means a bullet-proof defence for spending a substantial amount of money on such a fleeting and insubstantial event with particularly limited appeal (“inspired by Hanley’s history”), and having had first-hand experience of similar Arts Council funded ‘extravaganzas’ I would suggest that the tens of thousands of pounds it’s costing could benefit both the disabled and non-disabled people of the area in a much more practical way.
And if this occasion is to encompass the whole community, rejoice in the area's regeneration and celebrate its history, then why haven’t local businesses been encouraged to put up sponsorship at the very least? If it is truly to benefit the community, then why couldn’t they have fundraised amongst those who were willing and able to support such an event, rather than squeezing those who can’t refuse?
This may have been organised with the best intentions at heart, but that hasn’t prevented it breeding resentment, as one person comments at the bottom of the article:
“How come the council are giving money to this yet shutting the splash pool at dimensions because lack of funds. What are prioritys giving lots of people a service for another year with the swimming pool or giving it to some arty type people which will benefit just a few, for a few hours”.
This isn’t about denying disabled people the opportunity to perform, it’s just about serving the community in the most sensible way with public money, and very often when tax-pounds are used to fund dance spectaculars in areas that badly lack other services or amenities such events only serve to drive apart the communities they sought to unite.