People don’t often talk about going to the Midland Arts Centre. They’re far more likely to say they spent an enjoyable evening or afternoon at the Mac.
And the friendly name epitomises the Mac’s status as an arts centre that really is used by a wide cross-section of the community.
Perhaps it’s the link with Cannon Hill Park that has allowed the Mac to become part of Birmingham’s cultural landscape even for those who don’t think of themselves as fans of “culture”.
But one thing the Mac’s chief executive can rightly say is that the arts centre hasn’t got where it is by “dumbing down”.
So it really would be a tragedy if this cultural beacon was forced to go downmarket to bring in more punters and more money – or if it was forced to close its doors for six weeks, an option put forward in a report to Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet.
That’s not to say the Council or the Government an be expected to magic up some more money from nowhere.
Everyone is suffering at the moment. Certainly, the council has no choice but to implement cuts because its grants from the Treasury have been reduced.
As we all know, the Government and the opposition parties disagree about whether the level to spending cuts nationally can be justified. But while Labour claims that Ministers are cutting “too far and too fast”, it accepts that cuts need to be made, and there’s no way that funding for the arts could be immune from that.
So one way or another, organisations such as the Mac, Symphony Hall, the Town Hall, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Ex Cathedra choir will need to find a way to cope with reduced resources.
The council provides and funds a wide range of essential services.
But while arts funding may not appear to have the same immediate importance as some other functions, the authority must remember, as no doubt it will, that arts and culture are essential to the life of a city.
The creative industries benefit enormously, directly or indirectly, from the presence of world-class venues and organisations.
Birmingham’s cultural offering contributes to its reputation, nationally and across the globe. Ensuring Birmingham is a vibrant and interesting place to live is essential to firms looking to attract skilled staff into the city.
And the existence of art and culture in the city helps to bring people together and create a sense of community and belonging. It is something we can enjoy together, in person, as a rule, rather than shut inside our homes.
Again, that’s not to say that the city can avoid difficult decisions. Rather, the context in which those decisions must be made is one which must recognise the importance of art.
There are some benefits to an age of austerity. One is that organisations who might not have been motivated to become more efficient in the past might now develop ways of genuinely improving the way they work.
That goes for almost any body which finds it has to start operating on a smaller budget, and it might well include the Music Hub, the name dreamt up for four of Birmingham’s leading cultural organisations.
It may also be that people or motivated to start considering other sources of funding. There is no reason why potential philanthropists should not be approached, or why a lottery might not work.