#WhatMattersToMe is a Twitter trend that has everybody talking about one of the most important dates in our calenders this year, on Thursday 7th May the next UK General Election will take place. With just days to go until people start turning up at their local polls to cast a vote towards the party they'd like to take control in a lot of our country's activity for the next five years, it's time for us as young individuals to speak out about the things that matter to us. I could sit here and write a lengthy essay about many different areas I feel are important to speak up about but one in particular springs to mind and it's the one I will share with you, the arts and culture sector. #culturematters

Why does it m a t t e r?

The future of arts and culture seems more challenging than ever, whilst we don't know of any future until the election all of the major political parties have pledged to continue to reduce the deficit. The Arts Council who are the main funding body for the UK and whose job it is to fund arts activities that engage people in England, or help artists and arts organisations carry out their work have seen a drastic cut of 36% to their funding since the last election back in 2010. There has been a sharp increase in the loss of organisations who are unable to support themselves through local authority funding as well as that provided from national funding bodies. There is some great stuff out there that is unable to reach their audiences and it's sad that these organisations that give so much cannot reach their people

The arts give a child in the outskirts of a city with little money the opportunity to outreach into the libraries and artistic opportunities to explore and play that other young people that live within a city can access easily

The arts takes a young person off the streets and engages them to think for themselves and to learn new skills. It gives that young people something in their life that they can enjoy and feel apart of a family or the community

The arts can give somebody with dementia a new purpose in life, a reason to become involved with society again and for them to access exercise that benefits their condition

The arts gives a older person an opportunity to engage into community, into the society that they grew up contributing their own pay wages into and gives them the ability to watch the arts or gain access into galleries and museums

The arts and culture sector gives us all joy, whether that's taking a dance class, watching a dance/theatre show, allows us to be creative and opens our imagination

What are the major political parties s a y i n g?
Using an summary provided by the Arts Council website see here let's look at what the major political parties are saying..

The Conservative manifesto says that it is committed to maintaining free access to museums and galleries whilst also supporting plans for future projects around the UK. The manifesto also p r o m i s e s to maintain and potentially extend tax relief for the arts and creative industries and to provide free Wi-Fi and the support for e-books to become available in libraries. The Conservative notices that the creative industries have become our fastest growing economic sector, contributing nearly £77 bullion to the UK economy. (so surely we should gain something back from that, surely we can be provided more money to continue this growth!)

The Labour manifesto opens with a commitment to a universal entitlement of creative education to all young people through both school curriculum and after-school clubs. They mentioned the 'need to help our children develop the creativity, self-awareness and emotional skills they need to get on in life' in the education section. The other policies from Labour are to continue free access to museums and galleries, introduce a Prime Minister's Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries and deliver more creative apprenticeships. They do believe that art and culture gives form to our hopes and aspirations and defines our heritage as a nation. 

The Liberal Democrats manifesto do include arts and creativity within their policies on 'building a sustainable economy' and commit themselves to supporting creative skills, apprenticeships and small businesses and cultural tourism. They notice that the UK's creative sector has been one of the great success stories of the past five years, and a critical driver for our recovery. 

The UKIP devotes TWO separate sections to matters relating to the arts and culture sector. Their specific arts policies include the abolition of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibilities folded into other departments. They would establish a Minister for Heritage and Tourism in the Cabinet office and support local arts projects in seaside towns. 

The Greens promise to reduce VAT to 5% for live performances, give local authorities the power to support live performances within the arts along with local funding and support initiatives to make culture accessible to all. Being the only party to include a spending commitment on the arts, they said they'd increase the arts funding by £500m a year. 

You know what I think? I think Labour understanding it's vitally for young people in education is great especially when I work within a school already and already see it's benefits emerging in their communication, interactive and engagement skills. I think education is the best place to introduce the arts and engage an interest. I think the fact the Greens provided us with a view of the spending plan shows their initial way of grasping our attention and going (AH YES they've thought about the cuts we've experienced). But I am not sure which has the initial foundations to serve us good in the arts and for us to develop and get more initial funding. I have an idea of who I would think to be the right person to commit to our sector but I am wondering what you guys think?

Why does it m a t t e r to ME?

I've danced since I was four years old.
The arts was pretty much a structure within my growing up.
I've gone to three dance schools in my life, I have trained through Loughorough College in a Musical Theatre Diploma before undertaking a degree in dance at Coventry which I finished last year.
I used to be part of a touring pantomime company who toured during the Christmas season and would perform to crowds of a variety of people as well as performing as party of a charity event for young people in February. 
When I did not so great at GCSE levels and struggled to begin developing the skills for a future career, doing Musical Theatre at college basically saved me doing nothing with my life.
The arts allows you to express yourself in ways you can't when your calculating a sum or answering a phone call at work. 
The arts allowed me to break out of my socially awkward shell and understand relationships between human beings I hadn't so far achieved in my life before. 
I love nothing more than going to the Theatre or the local library or even to a local museum.
The arts has given me many other opportunities to help support events, to learn how to light and sound tech a performance, how to market myself as well as a performance. 
I've built friendships through work that I enjoy with people who are as passionate about it as I am.
I've engaged with young people in dance, those who probably wouldn't initially think Dance to be something f u n. 
I look forward to my job, I love waking up knowing that I am doing something I enjoy rather than doing something full time for the sake of paying your bills (we've all got to do it though!)
It's not a easy sector to be a part of but it's one which is rewarding, challenging and most certainly one of the best ones that this country has to offer!

Why does #culturematter to y o u?

I asked some people why #culturematters to them

Does #culturematters to you in this year's election?
If so, tell me about it.

thanks for reading,