No, Mr Self, we are not all Philistines

PUBLISHED: 13:38 11 May 2007 | UPDATED: 22:47 28 May 2010

WHILE I agree there is a lack of public support, in terms of finance from council and governing bodies, I would have to disagree quite strongly that Fenland is a land of Philistines, as stated in last week s Fen Blow column by David Self. There are litera

WHILE I agree there is a lack of public support, in terms of finance from council and governing bodies, I would have to disagree quite strongly that Fenland is a land of Philistines, as stated in last week's Fen Blow column by David Self.

There are literally hundreds of artists, musicians, poets, writers, film-makers, actors and so on in Fenland.

I speak from first hand experience. I was chairman of Fenland Arts a few years back, and inaugural chairman of Fenland Visual Arts Collective. The problem, which the column highlighted is the fact that there is little public support of the arts. With no funding there can be no advertising, with no funding there can be no venue booked, with no funding there can be no projects run.

Fenland District Council gives Fenland Arts a small grant, and to be fair, its runs some great kids and market place activities. It also does its best on the small money it has to act as an information point for people interested in the arts. But it can do only so much with the little money it has. With more money it could release the talent and experience this area is quite honestly blooming with.

The other problem is information. Getting listings and information across to everyone is hard with limited budget.

Advertising costs a bomb, and most arts ventures bring in very little money. But in order to increase revenue you need to be able to afford to advertise. It's a catch-22 situation. Some kindly folk offer sponsorship. I run Dragonfly Book, Art and Craft Fair, just for that reason. I passionately believe in the arts in Fenland, and devote some time, and I admit money, into these monthly events.

Its continued success and monthly support by local residents and people from further afield ensures that there is choice for local people and that there is at least one regular place for people who love the arts to come, have a coffee and meet like-minded people.

We cannot make people get up out of their armchairs and into events. Wimblington holds some great community events. What about the Angles Theatre in Wisbech and the Atelier East art exhibitions there? Don't know about them? We're back to the need for a good listings guide and advertising costs.

What we need is some enterprising soul or even newspaper to offer a comprehensive regional listings guide. I produced an arts review when I had my bookshop and artspace in March Town in 2002, which had four pages of densely-packed local listings. That was four years ago.

When I opened my shop people said to me "You don't want to do that; no one in March can read." I am glad I proved them wrong. The bookshop was a success. Regrettably I closed it because it was too busy. I had opened it as a hobby but it took off too quickly for me to be able to continue my freelance work.

If that isn't proof that Fenland and March isn't a cultural wasteland I don't know what is.

I agree though, we need a bookshop, coffee shop and artspace, something along the lines of a Borders style, it would be a success. If I had £20k spare I would gladly open one.

VANESSA CHAMPION

West End

March

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