Carnival atmosphere at protest

1711002 SSFF student protest 'protest against arts funding cuts at Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy
1711002 SSFF student protest 'protest against arts funding cuts at Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy
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A REAL carnival atmosphere surrounded last week’s protest against cutting theatre arts from the curriculum of a Kirkcaldy college.

But the message behind the performances was a serious one as students fought for the future of around 13 popular drama and production courses currently under threat following a review of the curriculum at Adam Smith College.

Around 200 students took part in the demonstration on Friday which included spur of the moment song and dance performances in the open area in front of the entrance to the St Brycedale Campus, as well as conga lines and an indoor rally in St Bryce Kirk at which a video presentation was shown and speeches were given.

As the students assembled with banners and whistles, they were acknowledged by passing motorists, including taxi drivers, bus drivers, police cars and even a fire engine which sounded their horns as they drove past.

Representatives from various colleges and universities, including Carnegie College in Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Telford and Stevenson Colleges in Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt and Napier Universities were also in attendance to show their “solidarity” with the Adam Smith students, and representatives from the National Union of Students were also there.

Former students turned up to show their support and parents of students as well as general members of the public also stopped off to boost the numbers.

One member of the public joked that the demo was “like being caught up in an episode of ‘Glee’ while the women’s officer for the NUS, Kelley Temple said she was “inspired by the energy of the students in their support of their cause.”

Some of Kirkcaldy’s prospective parliamentary candidates attended and gave speeches at the presentation, while a number of students and lecturers who had been told they could face disciplinary action if they demonstrated when they were meant to be in classes, defied the ruling to lend their voices to the campaign, and others watched the proceedings from within classrooms overlooking the concourse.

Kim Shepherd (21), a former student who studied musical theatre at the college from 2007-09, said: “Not everyone can afford to send their kids to a London-based training school and it is really narrow-minded to cut theatre arts completely.”

Fiona Mackenzie Barnes (30), a self-employed singing teacher, and former student, said: “I have two young children and wouldn’t have been able to expand my skills if this course had not been available locally.”

Scott Rutherford (18), who is studying for Highers at the college, said: “College places are limited enough without cutting any more. Theatre arts are just seen as an easy target.”

Beneta Brown, president of the Adam Smith College students’ association, said she was delighted with the turnout.

“It is really positive to see the students expressing their feelings in such a creative manner,” she said.

Following the demonstration the students, politicians and lecturers took their protest across to the St Bryce Kirk where a number of speakers including students, lecturers and politicians gave their views on the proposed closure.

The event was filmed by students to send to the college’s management who said they were unable to attend the presentation.

AT the time of going to Press no announcement on the future of the theatre arts courses had been made.

A spokesman for the college said: “The consultation period will come to a close this week and a decision will be announced as soon as possible thereafter.”

It is understood that a meeting of the college’s board of governors was due to meet last night (Wednesday).

On Monday, Dr Craig Thomson, principal of the college, met students from theatre arts and holistic therapies programmes to discuss the proposed phasing out, emphasising that no final decision had been made.

He said that, in moving to a decision later in the week, he was taking into account information from staff, from organisations and individuals external to the college and, very importantly, from students.

He said: “This was an important meeting. I was very impressed by how well prepared the students were and by their clarity in putting their views over. I was pleased to clear up various misconceptions at the meeting including the fact that no current students would have their course discontinued – all will be able to complete their qualifications.

“In discussing this with the students, I was very impressed by their commitment to their courses. It is clear that they are not simply taking action to protect their personal interests. They have a real ambition for the college and their subject areas. This was an influential and very helpful meeting.”

Mr Thomson also paid tribute to the student demonstration held last Friday. He said: “I welcome this type of action where strong views are put forcefully but peacefully.”

However students who attended the meeting described it as “pointless” and “very disappointing.”

Beneta Brown, student association president, said: “I was a bit frustrated that the majority of our questions were not answered, but side-stepped.

“They said that a decision would be reached in the next few days and that once it was made it was final, and there would be no appeal process.We got the feeling that the decision has already been made.”

Michael Buzza, the elected student representative said the principal had continually contradicted himself, saying one minute the decision was not about money and the next that it was.

Adam Stevenson added: “We realised very quickly that it was just a token meeting so the college could tick the boxes and say it had got the views of the students. It was a pointless meeting which gave us no additional information, and we still haven’t been given any evidence to back up the college’s claims that theatre arts courses are unviable.”