Beautiful sights hidden behind an 'impenetrable fortress of college security' Jean-Luc Benazat via unsplash

The basis for this article began not in Kettle’s Yard gallery, but rather on a Saturday morning as me and two other friends trekked all the way (five minutes) to Corpus Christi college for brunch. Since my own college had not yet started serving brunch, and with a burning desire to sample other college’s veggie sausages (with all love to Sidney Sussex, their veggie sausages are a real jaw workout), we were eager to try out a new brunch spot. Walking to the front gate, we easily sauntered past the porter’s lodge, thanks to our distinctly student-y getup of obnoxious tote bags. Next to us, a group of tourists stood behind a barrier, the closest glimpse they would get of the college being the front entrance unless they were willing to pay the £5 visitor fee. As I ate my beans, the image didn’t leave my mind. Here I was, sat in a beautiful, historical space, selfishly inhaling hash browns, whilst other people had to pay.

“to others, these sights are hidden behind impenetrable fortresses of college security, limited visiting hours, and admission fees”

I’m not trying to defend the onslaught of tourists that descend upon colleges at weekends. Believe me, I’m in the background of many a photo in Sidney Sussex’s chapel court lugging a bag full of dirty laundry and sporting a fetching outfit of hot pink crocs and what I like to call my ‘struggle jumper’ (grey, bobbly, down to my knees), and every day I wish that I wasn’t. However, the divide between which types of people get to enjoy beautiful cultural and historical sights is apparent throughout this city. This is where Kettle’s yard comes in. Recently, the gallery announced that they would be charging a £10.50 fee for visitors, where once it was free to access, though the galleries are still free for all visitors.

This is not an attack on Kettle’s Yard by any account; no one can deny that in recent years, the government’s attitudes towards the arts has been less than encouraging, a sentiment reflected in the meagre funding that creative institutions get (maybe they’re hoping all curators will eventually sack it in and get careers in tech instead?). Equally, students are still given free entry, which is a positive for any student budget. However, the fact that the free entry is levied at students, the largest student age demographic in the city, creates an interesting dynamic as to who gets to enjoy art in Cambridge freely.

“I believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to engage in culture and the arts.”

Whilst not all Cambridge students are in the financial position to pay museum entry fees, we are still incredibly lucky to be able to access countless fantastic and unique heritage sites for free (if we’re forgetting about tuition fees here). To others, these sights are hidden behind impenetrable fortresses of college security, limited visiting hours, and admission fees. And while I do get a little buzz of smugness every time I get to use the wonderful, jaw dropping, historically-significant site of King’s college as my own personal shortcut to the much less attractive English faculty library with a mere flash of my Camcard, a small bit of guilt remains. The same discomfort remains with things like the Kettle’s yard fee introduction; families in Cambridge, or even just people wanting to look at some nice art are suddenly hit with a financial barrier, in a city full of barriers to fantastic bits of art and culture.


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Cambridge has been frequently hailed as one of the UK’s most unequal cities. You don’t have to look much further than headlines discussing a homeless woman giving birth to twins in the doorway of Trinity, the university’s richest college, to see examples of this inequality at play. Whilst art isn’t the biggest issue when it comes to inequality, the barriers to cultural sights around Cambridge for the ‘Town’ population that the ‘Gown’ crowd take for granted, serves as yet another stark reminder that this city is a very unequal playing field. Call me a radical, but I believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to engage in culture and the arts.

Leaving Corpus, I took one final look at the courtyard with its stained glass windows and ornate chapel. I then took one look at the laminated sign asking visitors to pay a fee. As the government continues to crack down on creative spaces, the inequality gap of who gets to access cultural sights widens. Art should be for everyone, not kept behind fees and barriers.

This article has been updated following information from Kettle's Yard. The galleries are still free to access, and free entry is for all Cambridge students, not just under 25s.