This is an opinion piece that ran in the Press this morning from three of the people heavily involved in FESTA and Free Theatre. They also work – or worked – at the University’s department of Theatre and Film Studies, which seems destined for the chop. In one article, it sums up the problems with the rebuild, and the University – as well as some of the best things that have happened in Christchurch since the quakes; Gap Filler, FESTA, Life in Vacant Spaces.

It should not be surprising then that Free Theatre company members have not only been involved in creating performance projects like Canterbury Tales, but have also been responsible for initiating “flaxroots” projects that have gained considerable attention for their experiments in creative urban renewal post-earthquakes: Gap Filler, Life in Vacant Spaces, FESTA, Arts Voice, Arts Circus and the River of Arts.

Many of these projects are very visible, including some which have featured in University of Canterbury advertising campaigns. You’d think that the marketing experts in the Registry would be able to see the benefit of keeping people that bring the institution such kudos; instead, they’re going on the scrap heap so we can make way for more engineers:

In 2016, UC will disestablish Theatre and Film Studies. As many will know, the university has been endlessly restructured over a number of years, preceding and following the earthquakes. The latest round sees around 15 jobs in the College of Arts cut, with Theatre and Film Studies the sole department to be axed.

The tertiary education policy of Minister Steven Joyce treats the university as a job training facility rather than a place to develop free- thinking and interdisciplinary innovation. But in times of crisis training for the status quo is increasingly useless.

This whole story is a great encapsulation of how the Government has got this recovery completely ass-backwards; scrapping one department that has done more to populate post-quake Christchurch with joy and expression than any other entity, and using the “savings” to fix another department that is clearly not broken.

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