Music and art have always been a vehicle for political protest: from Bob Dylan and Bob Marley to Billy Bragg.
Now a new group of British artists and musicians are hoping to use art, song, theatre and words, as well as social media, to combat the coalition's austerity agenda.Oooh, oooh, wait….
OK, hit me!
Created specifically to campaign against the government's cuts to public services, charities and the creative industries, the Artists' Assembly Against Austerity, launching today, is a grassroots alliance of more than 200 creative artists.
Signatories include actor, Maxine Peake, fantasy author China Miéville, poet and writer Blake Morrison and artist Peter Kennard.Riiiight, so that’s a whinging Northern bint off the TV, a noted socialist and occasional figure of fun at David Thompson’s blog, someone I’ve never heard of and … someone else I’ve never heard of.
Wow! Bringing out the heavy battalions there…
"The coalition's austerity measures are a violent programme of cuts," says Season Butler, a writer and academic at Goldsmiths, University of London and coordinator of Artists' Assembly Against Austerity.
"The cuts are affecting artists as much as they are the public – many artists rely on benefits. Cuts to education mean it's harder to find work as an art teacher. Artists have been a bit shy recently of working on social justice issues but, now, we're seeing more come out in opposition to the broader austerity programme."If artists were any good, why would they rely on benefits? Ergo, this ‘art’ isn’t the sort of stuff anyone wants to pay for…
Katherine Araniello, a performance artist with spinal muscular atrophy, is angered by the austerity programme. "As a disabled person who relies on government-funded income, I am appalled by the benefit cuts," she says.
"Someone like me requires 24/7 support. My funding hasn't kept pace with inflation for the past five years – I'm having to pay my care workers at the minimum wage."Newsflash, sweetie, my pay rises haven’t quite kept up with inflation, and I’m doing something people will pay for! Why should you be different?
"My art is about what capitalism does to your heart, and the inner child in you," says Rob Montgomery, whose works was recently displayed at the Louvre."I guess I’ve figured out why no-one wants to pay for it…
On a practical level, the Artists' Assembly will challenge the government's austerity agenda through online activism, marches and art.
"We're not going to tell artists to make certain pieces of art," says Butler."That will be their choice. But art can be a powerful tool for social justice."There’s certainly a lot of tools involved…