I’ve been thinking of posting on the proposed cuts to Government funding for the arts, but today I came across www.savethearts.org.uk…
Since the proposed cuts back in July, various arts bodies and artists themselves have expressed their concern. It appears every aspect of public life in the UK is going to be facing budget cuts, and that’s pretty inevitable. But it’s the scale of the proposed cuts that had everyone worried – the suggested had risen from about 15% to as much as 25-40%. That would be a massive blow to the arts in Britain, not least because there (apparently) isn’t that much money to trim anyway. The UK arts budget is already pretty small, costing 17p per week per person, and it has already been reduced by £23 million, from £468m to £445m. A 30% cut would amount to a loss of £134m per year, and would spell the end of many arts organisations. The Government is hoping that generous patrons of the arts will give more, plus there will be a boost from the National Lottery. But that’s unlikely to be enough, and puts the arts as a whole on a pretty shaky footing.
So now all those concerned artists and organisations have got together to explain why these cuts are a bad thing. This video, by David Shrigley, says it well… (sorry for the occasional rude word.)
It’s important to address the financial issues involved, and it’s great that the arts can be demonstrated to show a worthwhile return on any investment. But I think we can miss the point if we just focus on the financial aspects. I think there are a couple of important questions we need to consider, although we often might assume the answers…
Is art a commodity or a conversation?
If we think of art is a commodity, something merely to be consumed like chocolate or petrol, then we’ll almost certainly consider it a luxury item. And in times of austerity, luxury items are where we cut back. As David Shrigley’s video asks, which is worth more: Tracey Emin or a fire engine?
But if art is a conversation, a means of expression and communication, then can we really determine its value along the same lines? Can we ask “how much is art worth” and only answer the question in terms of pounds and pence?
Is art for everyone, or just for a privileged few?
If we think art is just for an elite few, then we of course assume that the effects of cuts will only cause limited inconvenience. And, after all, if most of us can do without the arts, then so can the privileged few who’ve enjoyed them thus far.
But if art is for everyone, if it is important and significant to us all, then can we really just expect people to do without it?
You won’t be surprised to learn that I think art is important for all, because it is all about communication and expression, and it’s a conversation which we’re all involved it (whether we consider ourselves to be involved or not). Having a public sphere where we can contribute and explore ideas is a hugely important part of our society. The whole of the arts provide us with that space. As the art-loving farmer in Shrigley’s video explains, “They delight us, transport us, surprise us… They allow us to see something unique, something different and interesting from the latest Hollywood teen vampire b*****s or reality TV.”
One more thought. Under oppressive regimes and dictators, the arts are controlled and suppressed. The arts are essential for nurturing freedom of thought and expression. For a dictatorship, that’s dangerous. For a free, democratic society it’s essential, and the Government has a duty to preserve that freedom.
Oh, wait, one more thought: SIGN THE PETITION!!