Not everybody loves us……. oh well!

When you stick your neck out, take a stand based on principles and try to make things better, sometimes you will disappoint somebody who has a different agenda or viewpoint to your own.  Last week, by helping to promote a local street party on the day of the royal wedding, we managed to do exactly that for one person.

This person, who did not contact us directly with their concerns, posted a review on Qype (where all our other reviews are five star, we’re happy to say) saying we were:-

“Very wishy washy about their objectives.
Pretend to be ‘alternative’, vegan etc but seem to only encourage healthy middle class nonsense.
The icing on the cake was their support of the Southampton City Council Royal Wedding street party. Art House made red white and blue royal teapot and serving cucumber sandwiches for all. Their facebook page included the official link to the royal street party – complete with union jack and happy faces of wills and kate.
Also banned a fundraiser for Palestine – they didn’t want to upset the Israelis. Don’t support this place if you are wanting a radical alternative – they’re not they’re just another money making outfit with overpriced vegan snacks.”

We (odd as it may seem) saw this as a positive sign that we are, in fact, meeting our objectives very well! 

We are The Art House and all of our aims are to do with Art (the clue is in the name!), the community and the environment.  You can see all of our aims here – and our small involvement with the street party in no way clashed with any of them, in fact it supported quite a few!

Many people assume because we are community run and serve veggie food, that we are a ‘Radical’ venue who subscribe to a very specific set of left-wing views.  Perhaps some people even worry that if they hold more moderate opinions, they may not fit in here.  Actually, we like to think that we have a more diverse approach to both global and local issues.

To answer the accusation that we ‘banned’ a fundraiser for Palestine because we ‘don’t want to upset the Israelis’.  We didn’t so much ‘ban’ anything as decline to host a fundraiser for free.  In fact, we are sadly not in a position to offer free space to raise funds for other organisations and causes generally, as we have rather a lot of money to find each month to meet our own expenses at this stage of our development. 

We were also concerned that the specific event that was proposed would be partisan, the publicity we later were sent for the event came across very clearly ‘anti’ Israel.  We don’t think taking sides one against the other is how one makes peace.

The day after we made this decision, a lovely Israeli family just happened to come in for lunch whilst visiting the city.  We had a good talk with them about the situation and learnt a great deal about their on-the-ground opinions.   The crew who were there that day joined us in expressing our concerns about the occupation of Palestinian land.  This dialogue would not have been possible had our noticeboard been full of anti-Israeli posters, the family would have just walked out.  This rather serendipitous event seemed to us a vindication of what was actually a difficult and well-thought-out choice.

As for pretending to be alternative and vegan – we never claimed to be either one of these things!  We are of the mindset that the way forward for society is to move on from being ‘Anti’, ‘Against’ and ‘Alternative’ and try out some new, better ways of doing things which appeal to a wide range of people (yes, even the healthy middle classes, fancy that!). 

This means we stay away from knee-jerk responses to events like the royal wedding and actually approach things intelligently, calmly and with our aims always at the front of everything we do.  It means we sit down and talk things through, weighing up the pros and cons, looking at whether each event meets our aims.

The street party was a fantastic community event which involved many fellow arts groups, we had a great day and so did everyone who came!  Nowhere in our aims or literature have we ever stated that we are anti the monarchy (in fact, we honestly don’t have an opinion either way as an organisation – our volunteers certainly are on both sides of the fence on this one!).  All of the publicity we did for the day mentioned only the bank holiday, local cultural events and other arts organisations – this was deliberate as these are the things we are ‘for’. 

Of course, there are some things we choose not to have anything to do with based on a clash of principles.  To name just a few of these:-

– We refused funding from IKEA in our early days, as we believed that this was in conflict with our promotion of grassroots art.
– We pulled out of a BP sponsored poetry event due to BPs environmental record.
– We will not be participating in the ‘Cultural Olympiad’ next year, despite it being about the only funding available at the moment!  This is again due to some dubious sponsors and also concerns about the Olympics in general and the effect of the event on local communities.

At the end of the day, we felt the benefit to local art of events like the street party far outweighed any anti-monarchist sentiments people may have had around the time of the royal wedding.  We’re not about pleasing certain groups, we’re about meeting our aims – every day in every way we can.  We think we do it rather well!

One last and very important thing.  The Art House is legally a not-for-profit company.  All of our assets and all the money we make CAN ONLY be used to meet our aims.  We have no shareholders, no profits are ever given to anyone and they never will be.  So the “money making outfit” comment has no foundation in fact at all.

About arthousesouthampton

The Art House is a not-for-profit café, gallery and arts venue in the centre of Southampton. We are a place you can meet new people, meet up with friends or just come in by yourself. Our licensed café offers delicious organic lunches, Fairtrade tea and homemade cake. We also have a busy programme of events, workshops, and art exhibitions, a clothing and crafts boutique and lots more. Most of our crew are volunteers and you might even want to apply to join them. Come along and enjoy our unique, community run space.
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