Arts & Kraft’s

20Jan10

I’m born, raised and currently resident in a part of SW Birmingham that has been dominated by two huge manufactories – Rover and Cadbury’s. In fact my dad worked at both Longbridge and Bournville factories. Three years ago, while I was delivering a Creative Partnerships programme (‘creativity in teaching & learning’ – schools projects in Frankley, a ’70’s estate, built in the shadow of the Longbridge plant) the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, admitted that traditional manufacturing industry was no longer an economic priority for the Govt.; that Britain’s future was all about Technology and… wait for it…. the Creative Industries.

MG Rover (the company formerly known as Austin Rover and before that ‘the Leyland’ and before that ‘the BMC’ and before that simply ‘the Austin’) finally bit the dust in the summer of 2006 and the remaining, beleaguered 6000 or so staff lost their jobs, to be followed by countless associate components manufacturers across the region. Huge swaythes of the Longbridge site were hastily bulldozed and glossy boards put up, promoting the promise of a Technology Park. Woopy doop! (It’s still an empty wasteland).

Today Cadbury’s plc was finally sold off to the US company Kraft. I’m led to  believe that Confectionary is good business in times of recession: People will temporarily cheer themselves out of financial woes with a flake or a starbar.

But no-one round these parts is under any long-term illusions. Kraft will have no emotional interests in the glorious philanthropy of the Cadbury Quakers. There will be no sentimentality for the Bournville neighbourhood and workforce which has grown around the factory. It’ll be just a matter of time before jobs start to go. And it is a bizarre irony that much of the huge loan that was necessary to finance Kraft’s £11.9 billion bid was provided by RBS, bailed out last year by the British taxpayer.

Meanwhile, funding for the Arts promises to be just as bleak. What happened to Gordon’s prediction? Americanisation continues as a theme with the Tories looking to encourage an American-style system of private patronage if and when they assume Governance.

See James Yarker’s Stan take on this, in response to Lyn Gardner’s article.

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