Taking a page from the playbook of political activists in the United States (and closer to home) DanceUK has launched 'Dance Vote 2010' in an effort to make political candidates for the up and coming 2010 General Election in the UK state their position in support of dance.
From a practical point of view it's very simple. Visit the website, fill in your post code and you will be given a list of the candidates running for office in your local area. Fill in some details and the website will fire off an email containing a pre-written message to your selected candidates along with a personal addition to that message should you choose to add one.
Those emails will, in some cases, provoke a response from some candidates and this response will be posted on the Dance Vote website. What happens then is anybody's guess because we are talking about politicians here so what they say and what they do, not always the same thing.
Reading through some of the responses, especially when they come from candidates from the same party, you can't help but notice the consistent message in that response.
Three Liberal Democrat candidates, for example, from completely different areas all say this;
"Arts Council funding is distributed to ensure that all areas of the country are provided for and target funding at communities who are in most need."
"The Liberal Democrats support dance in all its forms and believe that it is an integral part of the UK's vibrant and diverse culture."
Overlooking for now the fact that the line about ACE is laughably inaccurate (not a lot of street urchins around the RSC, Covent Garden, ENO, etc) the bulk of the statements they have offered are word for word identical. Never underestimate the cynicism of a managed communications machine!
Whether or not campaigns such as this have any effect on the issue at hand is really dependant on how many people take part. Politicians respond to numbers so, if enough people use this system to express their interest in dance then we might just have a game to play.
On the other hand no matter how much a politician might actually like the arts they never get elected by sticking up for arts or talking about the subject at great length. So don't expect to see the party leaders talking about dance funding during their televised debates.
After the election is over DanceUK have told us the system will stay alive but obviously switch to direct contact with Members of Parliament (MPs) instead of candidates. We would also suggest they add the DCMS and the ACE drones to the site because, for the most part, that's where the fight really is.