It’s not exactly a secret that financially speaking the Council is going through a difficult time. Our funding has shrunk significantly over the past five years and it is plain that it will continue to dwindle during this parliament too.
Up to now I have been able to tell residents that thanks to sharing services with our municipal neighbours, more dynamic stewardship of our property estate and some really hard work by our officers, the frequency and quality of our services has mostly held up remarkably well. Sadly that cannot go on forever. Eventually, the year-on-year cuts will begin to become more visible. As that happens more questions will undoubtedly be asked about why we have chosen to fund A rather than B, why have we cut X but not Y. That brings me neatly to spending on the arts.
Kensington and Chelsea is perhaps unusual in still offering a full and diverse arts programme. With money from our reserves we have enabled Opera Holland Park to become independent so that it can seek out new commercial partnerships whilst continuing to offer a wonderful spectacle to residents. And we have been working hard at attracting more arts sponsorship. But even so we still spend money on the arts.
Sadly, there may come a day when that is simply no longer possible but we intend to hold out as long as we can and in this column I would like you give you a flavour of the reason why.
This month the Nour Festival gets underway shining a light on contemporary Middle Eastern and North African arts and culture. The region has long been a place of many faiths and peoples, of poetry, music and dance. Culturally it is a complex tapestry of many threads. But a violent fanatical minority would obliterate all that. Like Henry Ford, they offer a single colour – black. The Nour Festival is one small way of saying no. For many Nour devotees, the highlight of the Festival may well prove to be a chance to hear from the globally renowned Egyptian feminist and author Nawal El Saadawi who, at great personal cost and risk, has tried to address the plight of women not just in her in her homeland, Egypt, but across the world. But there is a really varied programme of music, dance, art, photography and food too. Nour really does have something for everyone and you can find out all about it at http://www.nourfestival.org.uk
These days, more than ten per cent of our residents are of North African and Middle Eastern heritage. They are as variegated as our many European residents. The Nour Festival is a positive way of recognizing that variety and discovering more about the cultural heritage of an important part of our community.