It is a pleasure to speak to you about the state of the Arts here in London. I compliment the London Fringe Festival for organizing this Meeting and for their contribution to the Arts here in London. I am a candidate in Ward 9, Byron and Lambeth, where I have lived for 46 years.
I have been asked to answer three questions.
The first is my past support for the Arts in London. I have been a regular theater goer in London since I had a student season's pass while I attended high school here in London in 1971. I have attended over 100 plays and concerts here in London, including "Rosco's Ghost," and the opening of "Citizen Mark" both at the London Arts Project. It is safe to say I am an enthusiastic supporter of the arts in London.
In a more tangible sense I served on the Board of the Cross Cultural Learner Centre which served as the incubator, for the London Cross Cultural Arts Committee which created Sunfest, London's largest "free music festival" and arguably Ontario's most successful "world music festival." The London Cross Cultural Arts Committee also runs the World Music and Dance Series. As a lawyer I drafted the bylaws for the London Cross Cultural Arts Committee and registered it as a Non-Profit Corporation. I have also served on the Music Reigns Committee since 1998 which raises significant sums of money for Orchestra London. In the past two years I have been told that I was the leading raffle ticket seller for Music Reigns.
When I served on London City Council 2000-2003 I was a strong supporter of the arts and culture. Shortly after I was elected to City Council I distributed articles on Richard Florida's "Bohemian Index" to the City staff and I believe also to my fellow councillors. Richard Florida's studies showed a clear link between support for the arts, culture, and diversity to a City's economic success. To prosper in the "new economy" you need to attract and retain the best and the brightest. Cities that were high on the "Bohemian Index" and had a thriving arts and cultural community tended to prosper. Investing in your arts and cultural community is a wise economic move.
My assessment of the current state of the arts in London is both positive and negative. It is positive in that we have a wonderful series of music festivals, an excellent Orchestra, and other music outlets like the London Music Club and the Canada South Blues Society. We also have a thriving theater community, with the Grand, The London Community Players, The London Arts Project and various productions at the University. The London Fringe Festival is an innovative addition to the London arts community. I attended the presentation of "The Red Plaid Shirt" on Sunday night. The John Labatt Centre has enabled us to bring world class musical groups to London. I already have my tickets for The Who. I have attended over 20 music concerts at the JLC.
There is room for improvement. There is a pressing need for a modern state of the art preforming arts centre. Kitchener and Hamilton have much better facilities than London and that is something we need to remedy. However, covering the cost will be an important consideration. A major benefactor is needed, corporate and community fund-raising is required as well federal and provincial government funding.
There is a need for more municipal government support for the arts and a better recognition of the economic benefit the City receives from the arts. We need to harness these activities to add to the quality of life in London and to generate economic prosperity. We have the Guy Lombardo Museum in London, yet we do not promote it properly, for example we do not have a sign on the 401 to advertise its existence. We can do a better job in promoting the arts in London.
As to my current participation in the Arts I am still involved with Music Reigns. I am presently serving as Treasurer on the London Multicultural Arts Committee and served on the Organizing Committee for this years Sun Fest. I will continue to be a strong supporter of the arts and cultural community in London because I know it adds to the quality of life in our community, and as Richard Florida has shown, it is a smart economic investment. Thank you. I hope I can count on your support.