'The idea that you can cut a £180bn deficit by slicing money out of the budget of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is frankly absurd." The words of an arts bureaucrat, theatre director, artist or writer with a special case to plead? No: Nick Clegg's, in the election campaign.And here comes ‘an arts bureaucrat with a special case to plead’ to agree with him!
Now his coalition wants cuts for culture and sport, over the next four years, of between 25% and 30% – the greatest crisis in the arts and heritage since government funding began in 1940.Oh, noes! The philistines! Disaster!
Of course, cuts are inevitable, but it is the size and pace that we challenge. Cuts on this scale cannot be absorbed by "efficiency savings" alone, they must inevitably result in a much smaller number of galleries and theatres, fewer chances for young people to broaden their experience of life, and a savage reduction in support for individual writers, artists and composers.Well, better them than plumbers, bus drivers, nurses, etc, surely?
At a time when demand for theatre, music and dance has been rising, arts organisations will have to reduce their activities across the board.Hey, if demand really is rising, put up your prices accordingly! The punters will pay, won’t they?
Ah. I see:
In some cases a vicious circle of declining audiences and reduced corporate and private benefaction will result in a slow, painful death because the core public subsidy is insufficient to sustain the halo of earned income and donations that we have all become adept at gaining.It seems they won’t pay.
Oh, well. Too bad. It’s not like you are some kind of vital services, is it, Nicholas?
Oh, what’s that? You are?
In the 90s a hard-hitting BBC Newsnight report on Salford showed old people terrified to leave their homes because of the threat of attacks by roving gangs. In 1997 work on a new arts centre began with the aim of raising the cultural profile of the city and bringing new business and tourism into the area.Wooohoo!
Sod extra police and harsh sentences for offenders! What we need to make old ladies feel safe at night is more mimes!
Many West End productions and much of the talent have been developed in the public sector. Take a show such as Enron. Headlong (an Arts Council-funded touring company) commissioned the writer, Lucy Prebble, and worked in partnership with Chichester Theatre to shape the play. It was then co-produced by the Royal Court, subsequently went on to the West End, and is now touring on an entirely commercial basis.Great! What’s the return on our ‘investment’ then? There has been one, I take it?
The coalition cannot intend to abandon the principles that have brought culture to millions. A 10-15% cut in cash terms over four years would be a challenge of the kind that arts organisations regularly surmount; more than this will threaten the whole ecosystem, cutting off the green shoots with the dead wood, reducing the number of plays and exhibitions, discouraging innovation, risk and experiment and threatening the ability of organisations to earn or raise money for themselves. You don't prune a tree by cutting at its roots.But if there’s a tree in the way that threatens to undermine your foundations and starve all the other plants by reducing their access to water and sunlight, you do cut it down.
Because there’s no shortage of trees…