All Creatures Great and Small star Samuel West blasted Tories for ‘horrific’ cuts

Sneak peak at All Creatures Great And Small

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Mr West returns to screen tonight on Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small at 9pm. The show, set in 1937, follows protagonist James Herriot who moves from Glasgow, a city in the grip of depression, to work in the magnificent Yorkshire Dales as a vet. The critically acclaimed show, which is based on a true story, traces the numerous adventures of Mr Herriot and the friendly staff at the veterinary practice.

Mr West, who stars as the outspoken and opinionated Siegfried Farnon in the programme, is also in real life a vocal critic of the current Government.

In May Mr West slammed the government for imposing “horrific” 50 percent funding cuts to art subjects at higher education level in England.

Speaking to The Stage about the proposals, Mr West, who is chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, said: “The arts are now shouting from so many barricades: Covid, education, Brexit, funding local government.

“We are spread thinly and getting hoarse.

“But even among the Government’s recent proposals this one is particularly ill-thought-out and must be opposed.”

The actor explained: “Art is not a hobby and talent can come from anywhere.

“Affordable music, drama and design courses fund a profitable world-class industry that keeps us sane and civilised.”

Mr West stressed that the cuts would “narrow” and ultimately “choke” the talent pipeline in arts industries. 

He added: “How can you think that our industry is ‘not a priority’ unless through some twisted worldview that believes turning out empathetic people who work collectively and are skilled in critical thinking is inimical to your vision. 

“That punitive philistine agenda is now the only explanation I can think of.”

In June, the Government moved ahead with a plan to cut funding for art and design courses by 50 percent across higher education institutions in England.

An independent regulator of higher education, the Office for Students, confirmed that the subsidy for each full-time student on an arts course will be cut from £243 to £121.59 in the 2021/22 academic year.

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Then-Education Secretary Gavin Williamson claimed the move would save £20 million and affect students studying 13 subjects including art, design, music, drama, dance, media studies and journalism.

After the plans were first announced at the end of April, Mr West wrote an impassioned Twitter thread to his 78,300 followers criticising the move.

He said: “Horrific news. Our orchestras, theatre and dance companies are some of the finest in the world. 

“Now the Government tells us ‘music, dance, drama and performing arts, art and design… are not among our strategic priorities.

“Presumably the Government feels that arts cuts will play well to their base before the elections. A new front opens in the culture war.

“But we don’t train artists or musicians based on where they live or how much their parents earn because talent is no respecter of postcodes.

“At the moment we train rich talented students and poor talented students. If this cut isn’t reversed we’ll soon be training rich talented students and rich untalented students.”

Before pleading with the public to sign a number of petitions to reverse the cuts, Mr West said: “I can’t tell you how good it feels to be told the industry I’ve worked in, lobbied for, all my life is not a priority. 

“It’s hugely profitable. We’re very good at it. 

“But it produces empathetic people, fluent in critical thinking who work collectively. It’s got to go.”

Watch All Creatures Great and Small tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.

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