I am sure that many readers of this fair tome found the comment of one of the contributors to the letters page suggesting prioritising the funding of Chippenham Folk Festival instead of contributing to the likes of Doorway (the Chippenham homeless initiative) somewhat alarming.
On deeper reflection, perhaps it throws up some fundamentally, morally challenging questions. Do we concentrate on making a festival financially viable, or on individuals who are struggling daily for physical and emotional viability?
How do we prioritise the opportunities we offer or have access to, as a supposedly inclusive, civilised society? Thankfully, many of us don’t have to continually think about shelter and where our next meal is coming from. We are lucky enough to have found a survival strategy that enables us to not only keep the wolf from the door, but to be in possession of a door, regardless of who comes knocking.
Most of us have doors and, if we are really lucky, enough disposable time and money to partake in life- affirming, life-enriching festivities and culturally significant celebrations such as the wonderful Chippenham Folk Festival.
The festival is something of which not only Chippenham can be proud, but Wiltshire and the rest of the country can reflect on when considering which elements make life worth living beyond the daily toil. Festivals and events help us to bind as a community.
In our work at Kandu we have worked with homeless initiatives and housing associations around the country, exploring the many different and contributory factors that result in individuals and families becoming homeless. Whatever your own personal perspective on the subject there isn’t any bog standard reason. Generalisations, as in most cases, don’t help.
However, if we all thought about it long enough we would probably agree that we would neither wish ourselves, nor dare I say, our worst enemies, the prospect of homelessness. Moreover, if put to a vote, whether there should be enough affordable homes for everyone before we even consider funding Morris or any other form of dancing, I would guess a rational society would vote for homes.
That being said, what would life be like without the emotional liberation of dance, music and the arts in general? Since the dawn of humanity the arts have been used to educate, stimulate and liberate (as well as selling products and propaganda, both political and religious).
The arts are extremely powerful and significant so more power to those dedicated individuals that contribute their time, talents and tenacity on creating such events. Wiltshire is becoming a hotbed of festivals of all kinds and natures. Chippenham, in particular, based upon the success of the folk festival, has festivals springing up all over the place.
Next weekend the second Chippenham Community Arts Festival (www.chipartsfest.co.uk) takes place, made possible by the hard work of a group of individuals, incorporating the talents of local artists, as well as the fresh blood and talent of artists from further afield. Familiar venues such as the Astoria Cinema and newly discovered ones, such as the Citadel Hall in Bath road, which was ironically once the office of the old North Wilts arts development officer. I will be trying to get a ticket for The Cause Arts Centre for the performance of Brotherhood by Kingsley Walker, on July 20.
As powerful and thought provoking as the arts can be, is there anything more significant than being there for someone in their hour of desperation? Without the arts life is poorer, without the likes of Doorway, lives are poorer; it’s just a little matter of life and death.