stand up and be counted


embrace the neo-liberal reality?

Time to grow up? I’d rather stand up and be counted

Set against the backdrop of its Newcastle city centre building being lost to redevelopment, a recent two-day event at the artist-led NewBridge Project in Newcastle asked whether it was time for artists to ‘grow up’ and accept the new agenda of cuts, philanthropy and big business sponsorship. Artist Lesley Guy joined in the conversation and came to a different conclusion.

With the visual arts landscape continuing to change as the austerity agenda stands firm, is now the time for us all to get real, accept the new climate and embrace the neo-liberal reality? Put another way, as the title of a recent two-day conversation hosted by The NewBridge Project (NBP) in Newcastle had it, Do we need to grow up?

Presented as part of NBP’s fifth birthday celebrations, the event was a response to the problems that it and other artist-led projects in the UK are facing. Problems like financial insecurity and how to cope with it; gaining support from and managing the expectations of funders and local authorities; and what to do when your building gets taken from you for redevelopment.

NBP’s 80 studios, project space, book shop and performance space are located on a block of land in Newcastle’s city centre along with several other arts projects including VaneTyneside Cinema’s pop up space, Globe Gallery and artists’ studios such as Ampersand Inventions and The Northern Charter in Commercial Union House.

At a conservative estimate around 200 artists are supported in this block, which is owned by the global real estate and investment company Reuben Brothers. Newcastle City Council is currently in negotiations to unlock this space for redevelopment…

… So no, we don’t need to grow up – not if growing up means compromising our values or forgetting why we became artists in the first place. We need to stand up and be counted.

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