On May 6th Strathclyde University voted unanimously to shut (I’m mostly going to say variations of kill) the Ramshorn Theatre. It was too depressing to blog about that day. It seems hopeless, an irreversible decision. A beautiful theatre and a great community will be destroyed. I needed some time for intense denial punctuated by nostalgic sighing.
We were so free!
And we were a good thing. A proper open access educational resource that produced talented professionals and multi-skilled responsible members of society. We came from diverse ethnic, religious and class backgrounds – you didn’t need a degree to be there – you didn’t need to be picked out as disadvantaged by the state – you didn’t need to be anything but yourself.
It didn’t matter how pure, eccentric or hybrid your identity was, it would fit right in.
In a world that often gets on its pious high-horse about being inclusive and equal – something inclusive and equal has been murdered.
And for such a cynical reason.
On Wednesday it emerged that Strathclyde University was axing courses in music, community education, geography and sociology. At least 25 jobs would be lost and the University would save £750,000. As university overheads go – it’s not a brilliant saving – which doesn’t matter since they also claim saving money and the current financial crisis isn’t part of their motivation. Their noble quest is to become Europe’s leading technological university. They will only provide core subjects, they’re only driven by the academic needs of the faculty. We’re getting in the way of their excellence.
To me, it’s an instantly dubious argument. A University should have a broad-based curriculum, that’s why it’s a university and a university should have a least some connection with the arts – if only to give their budding engineers and mathematicians a creative outlet.
But regardless of my thoughts on the matter they go and ruin their vision anyway by saying this ‘the subjects had been underperforming in research and were not financially viable’.
In other words – they’re not really about educating students – they’re about bringing in research money. They’re a business.
The students are more or less paying to support this business, or paying to be interns.
Philip Whyte, president of the university’s Students’ Association busted them ‘Once again, for all its talk of equal footing for the arts and humanities, this university has shown its true colours – namely the sacrifice of popular and academically robust courses on the altar of research’.
If they’re willing to do that to degrees – what hope does life-long learning and community outreach have?
If I had the heart – which I don’t – I could pour cries of shame and disgrace down on them. I could point out that at a time when Glasgow is seen as a violent and divided place, The Ramshorn Theatre, was an institution where Rangers fans and Celtic fans came together to put on a play about the families of Irish Republicans and no one felt maligned by the cultural or personal politics of it all and that’s worth more than a million moral panics and emergency meetings.
The university was actively pan-cultural and secular ecumenical, it hardly costs a penny, it takes place right in the centre of the city, its potential for social unity and future artistic integration is priceless and the principal, Jim MacDonald, didn’t even have to leave his office.
And we’re doing the same inter-tribal ‘it doesn’t have to be a fight or a slanging match – we could like each other!’ thing with our upcoming new show ‘Cinderella Boys’ by Tom Brogan and Fraser Campbell (running from Wednesday June 15th to Saturday June 18th) – although being a comedy-drama there will naturally be fighting and slanging of the type we can all be entertained and enlightened by.
It’s a national tragedy we’re shutting. We’re relevant! We’re worth it! We’re good for the students, we’re good for Scotland. We shouldn’t be junked for research money.
And now I shall think fondly of ‘Bold Girls’, and how sad it’ll be if I never sit next to Mags McNulty again as we tech a show.
And until I find a damn picture to weep over – I’ll have to be content with this pic of our past triumph ‘Mercury Fur’ by Philip Ridley. It was sad and grossed out and wistful – which is roughly how I’m feeling.