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Cultural life & general election locked in tug-of-war over Brits' attention & location, location, location

Cultural life & general election locked in tug-of-war over Brits' attention & location, location, location
Organizing a general election in the UK is never easy. But throw in carol concerts, Christmas shopping, family pantomimes and school nativities and the result is complete chaos!

Chichester Village Hall is normally a quaint spot in Witley, Surrey. The spotlight is on the historic building as it is currently being used by the BBC for their prime time television programme 'Strictly Come Dancing'.

Or it was, until dancers Anton du Beke and Emma Barton were told to cha cha cha out of the rehearsal studio. The reason? Its new use as a polling station. Samba-ring off to another location, the BBC is said to understand the need to use schools, church halls and community centers for the election.

In response to using so many schools as polling stations, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he wanted to avoid disruption to school nativity plays and Christmas concerts, stating that there are always other alternatives. The Association of Electoral Administrators, which is the professional body representing people who run elections, disagree.

"That is simply not the case. In many parts of the United Kingdom, including towns and cities but especially in rural areas, there are simply no alternatives to the venues designated as polling places," says the letter from the association. In other news, some schools were even closed due to classrooms being used as polling stations.

But in this battle against politics, culture has not just been surrendering trench after trench.

In Totnes, Devon, a festive performance of Disney's musical 'Beauty and the Beast' has managed to hold its ground. Due to the family show's schedule playing at the Ariel Centre this week, voting booths have had to be moved from the Redworth campus of King Edward VI Community Centre to the Elmhirst campus.

Cultural shenanigans have thrown a spanner in the works up and down the country. Forfar Musical Society in Angus, Scotland was not expecting that the snap election and their performance of 'The Grinch' would mean voters would have to go to a different polling station. The council decided that it's "curtain up" and that Reid Hall (normally used for elections) can continue as a cultural space.

These victories for art aside, schools and arts centers remain the first choice to house polling stations, potentially wrecking show-goers' plans – all due to their accessibility and geographical position, as many towns and cities, especially in rural areas, struggle to find venues. But in true British spirit, on a cold and damp December 12, with queues wrapping along streets in a voting frenzy in the UK – the show must go on!

Will all the fuss be worth it? Time will tell.

By Martyn Andrews, RT senior culture editor.

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