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8:00am Thursday 31st May 2012 in Letters
Sir – As Oxfordshire Artweeks draws to its close we have to be proud of the wonderful evidence of local creativity it has yet again revealed. In difficult economic times it is worth remembering and celebrating the capacity of individuals to make beautiful and worthwhile objects for both use and contemplation.
So a plea from the performing arts sector in Oxford, similarly full of creative talent and positive aspiration, but whose output is both more collaborative and physically ephemeral: bringing our work to the public needs larger shared spaces.
For performers to become independent of ever-diminishing public subsidy we need to be able to generate ticket income to cover the costs of production and presentation, and to be able to build audiences progressively.
Currently Oxford, despite two major universities and pretensions to cultural leadership, has virtually no provision of performing spaces between the tiny and intimate offering up to 150 seats, and major touring venues such as the Playhouse and the New Theatre. Bridging the chasm between the uneconomic experimental and the commercially viable is impossible for local companies and emerging artists and forces them to seek professional survival elsewhere. Far-sighted investment in arts infrastructure spearheaded by Tracey Emin and Tate Contemporary is now bringing economic and social renewal to Margate.
Learning from this example Oxford’s planners and developers should give serious consideration not to yet more retail, but to the building of professional standard municipal performing arts facilities in the heart of the city.
This would provide a lasting regeneration, promote growth and employment through development of an area of activity where local people have much to contribute, and give enduring reasons for visitors not only to come but to stay.
Susie Crow, Ballet in Small Spaces, Oxford