THE FINE ART OF BURNING A BRIDGE, WHILE STANDING ON IT
If you think the hostile/apathetic attitudes of Americans toward government arts subsidies are muddleheaded (overwhelming empirical evidence from foundations to government arts agency shows that the arts and arts program not only provide intrinsic benefits, but help children read, prevent crime and provide a boon to local business), check out the British response. A July 15 article by Maev Kennedy in The Guardian discusses an across-the-board British Arts Council proposed cut of 25%, and of institutional response to that proposal. The Royal Shakespeare Company, one of England's most internationally prominent faces of British culture, says it simply can't continue to function in any viable way with such a draconian cut.
Eight out of 10 tourists to London say they come for the arts. Every £1 invested in the arts leads to a £2 return, including revenues from box office and local businesses. If this were a proposal for a stock investment, the trading of that arts stock would be through the roof. But when it's government investment, out come the cries of “elitism,” and “make the arts pay their own way.” (Sort of like we do with the banking and insurance industries.)
(The Arts Council cut was finally trimmed from 25% to 10%.)
For a plethora of attitudes in the comments to the article, including a hostility to the arts that's quite stunning, coming from readers of The Guardian, press the More tab directly below.
Comments to Maev' Kennedy's July 15 article in The Guardian:
15 Jul 2010, 2:23PM
There cannot be anything more important than paying an artist a
substantial amount of money to shit into a bright yellow bucket with a
smiley face on it and call it: happy faeces.
Then everyone can debate whether this truly describes the human
condition while condescending anyone who claims that the art is simply
a bucket full of crap. Of course only creative and intelligent people
will appreciate the art in question, thus distancing themselves from
the ignorant masses.
15 Jul 2010, 2:35PM
Start with Opera, then all the big Orchestras. Make them pay their way.
15 Jul 2010, 2:57PM
It might be shit to you bloatboy, but that's their bread and butter.
15 Jul 2010, 3:03PM
Empower every one to be their own Artist – why have a
Specialist/Elite class of so-called practitioners arguing in their
Pretend worlds ?
15 Jul 2010, 3:21PM
However gut-wrenching your hatred of the arts, how do you argue
against support of 'an industry … which generates at least £2 for
every £1 invested'?
15 Jul 2010, 3:42PM
Poor old Sir Nicholas, its a hard knock life on £160k a year.
15 Jul 2010, 5:05PM
ACE have already done such a good job at mismanaging my particular
corner of the arts (small scale touring performance) that the cuts are
likely to have minor impact to be perfectly honest. There is nothing
left to cut and we've become reliant on European money. I guess I
should feel concerned that the big players are going to have their
budgets finally trimmed… and I suppose I do in an abstract sort of
15 Jul 2010, 5:09PM
yes, I'm going to be bitter and full of envy for Nicholas Serota
because he earns more than me. For goodness sake, look how hard this
man has worked and how successful Tate has become under his wing. If
anything he should be paid one hell of a lot more than £160k a year,
especially when you consider that the going rate for a head teacher in
Lewisham is now £250k per annum…
15 Jul 2010, 5:43PM
Michael Gove claimed £20 for Tate Modern coffee mugs on expenses.
So perhaps the arts are safe under the Tories.
15 Jul 2010, 6:49PM
The level of debate on the comments here is very disappointing. The
decimation of the cultural sector and the knock on effect will reach
far and wide. So people should stand up and make the case, and use
intelligent and rational arguments.
The sectors need to galvanise
and look at the effects that cuts will have across education / local
authorities / culture / health / and take a longer term view about the
implications, rather than petty point scoring about individuals. This
is a time when we have an opportunity to connect and make a concerted
effort to defend the landscape that we have all benefited from over the
last decade – free museum and gallery entry, performing arts that are
the envy of the world and a sector that as Liveit stated that for every
pound invested returns two more in revenue. As a business model this is
very good indeed.
so join us where the debate is also in more depth on here
15 Jul 2010, 7:17PM
For havens sake, haven't we grown up enough to move beyond the 'oh
I saw a really rubbish piece of modern art once so I don't think they
should have any funding…' Pathetic. It's a so much bigger picture
than that. The creative industries, from TV and video gaming to theatre
and film, are completely interdependent – and they have been one of the
only significant growth areas in the economy over recent years. That is
why we are a world leader now, and why the sector makes such a positive
economic impact; as highlighted above £2 generated for every £1
invested. You can't strip out the grass roots of the sector, which is
what will happen as a result of these cuts, and not expect the whole
lot to come crashing down. We are currently looking at nothing less
than the decimation of our creative industries for generations to come:
a perfect storm of simultaneous deep cuts to the DCMS and local
authorities – and this government is simply not looking at the bigger
picture or the potential economic and social knock on impact. This is
partly through naivety but also ignorance. Cuts are necessary – the
sector isn't burying its head in the sand – but we have to look
carefully at the impacts and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
We will need the sector to be healthy to feed the recovery. If 25% cuts
are applied the sector will be crippled. That will limit us as a
nation, hobble us as a society, reduce innovation and creativity at a
time when it's most needed and impact on economic development and
education across the country. Towns and cities dependant on the sector
to drive footfall and support local economies will be left without it,
and schools will be unable to access creative learning opportunities
recently identified as vital to the successful development of young
people. What a wonderful dry world we have to look forward to under
this government – no libraries, no museums, no leisure centres or local
services, no arts venues or theatres in local communities, certainly
fewer schools trips to the theatre stimulate the mind. But hey, the
kids will always have the reintrodution of porta cabins for lessons to
look forward to. And after all, who needs the arts when when we can sit
in and watch uncle Rupert's Sky?
15 Jul 2010, 7:19PM
We would be mounting less productions, employing less actors and designers
15 Jul 2010, 7:28PM
No-one subsidises the local cinemas because people actually want to
see what they have to offer and are willing to pay for it and they
manage their costs well.
Why should poor people subsidise the pleasures of the rich any more
than they do via huge mark-ups on everything we buy? And who in their
right mind wants to sit and watch people writhing about on the floor
unless those people happen to be stark naked?
I don't see lap dancing clubs being subsidised either and yet far
more people probably go to them than go to theatres to watch overpaid
oafs showing “oaf.”
I remember reading in the 1990's that the average Jazz venue was
subsidised by 5p per seat and the same study showed that opera seats
were being subsidised by over £20 per seat, ….. that closed the case
for the prosecution for me.
We need 100% cuts not 25% cuts and if the tax evading rich don't
like it why don't they do as they do in the USA and pay for these
things themselves out of their ill gotten gains? They say that the arts
bring in twice as much money as is spent on them, …….. so let them
prove it by slashing budgets to zero and watching the investors rush in
,….. Not !
15 Jul 2010, 7:47PM
I work in a regional arts centre, and already it runs a on a
shoestring. We work here because we love it, and are dedicated to the
cultural vibrancy of the city. It would be very dangerous to be too
London-centric on this issue and base decisions purely on financial
return. Our city and region, would be much poorer if this one venue had
15 Jul 2010, 7:52PM
Nobody mention Piero Manzoni to @bloatboy, ok?
I agree with the more thoughtful (and less childishly idiotic)
commentors here. The arts do serve a vital purpose in society, and the
sort of cuts that are proposed won't just affect that industry –
they'll affect a wide segment of society. Without the aspirational and
cultural richness the arts give us, we might as well be living in some
communist era shack.
15 Jul 2010, 8:04PM
in response to Reddevilalpha:
a film cost £100 to hire, a projectionist costs £40 a shift, so
does an usher, and someone to sell the tickets maybe £20. That's £200
to show a film.
a piece of theatre requires a team of performers investing a week
of rehearsals, a sound engineer, a lighting technician and the
overheads of the venue (front of house manager, ushers, box office),
set, costumes, posters and programmes, and that's if they are all local
and have a place to stay. How much would the ticket price have to e for
all that without funding? bear in mind also that all those people
getting paid, are also paying tax INTO the system.
And the arts are subsidised so POOR people can access them. Do you show opera in your cinema, like our cinema does?
you need to get out more.
15 Jul 2010, 10:08PM
The Arts cost .7% of government spending. You could cut that in half or double it
and it would make no actual difference to the public purse. Cutting the Arts is unnecessary macho politics.
I have just sent a drawing of a roast golden goose that might be tasty
but no longer lays eggs to Jeremy Hunt. If you can draw I urge you to
do the same
15 Jul 2010, 10:27PM
Many cinemas are subsidised directly, and filmgoing, including
going to commercial cinemas, is subsidised indirectly – with films and
distribution – things you might see in Cineworld or Odeon – being
supported by UK Film Council.
I'm not a fan of luvvies, but the knee jerk reaction to public
funding of culture – that art should operate on a fully commercial
model – is simply ignorant. The subsidised arts contribute to our
economy – and as a business that does that, they merit support just as,
oh..all those other businesses that get any public funds..farming,
manufacturing, transport, etc, etc, etc.
15 Jul 2010, 2:35PM
Start with Opera, then all the big Orchestras. Make them pay their way.
Opera could very easily pay its way, by hiking up ticket prices and
ensuring that only the very wealthy could afford to go. Given its
well-healed audience, it will also have much less of an issue in
attracting private sponsorship, including sectioning large areas of the
best seats off as Corporate giveaways. So, Opera would probably suffer
little from Arts cuts.
The less well-healed members of the Opera audience, who could not
afford to pay more than they do now, would do, however. An attack on
Opera funding is essentially an attack on the less-well off in
society's ability to ever attend one.
16 Jul 2010, 12:38AM
Most people who work in the arts earn little and work extensive
hours with no extra pay for overtime, weekends, bank holidays etc. They
accept that this is fine because their work is vital to them. Two of my
work colleagues have good qualifications in more lucrative and
in-demand professions but they choose to work long hours in small
performance venues because performance is their life. In these jobs
they nurture artists and programme work, promoting talent to audiences
across the board. Reactions are phenomenal which is why they have been
getting some funding over the years but no one earns a great deal, they
benefit though enormously.
To imagine that the arts are for rich people is insane. I don't
know anyone who is rich who works in the arts but I know plenty of
people whose lives would be a void without them, me being one of them.
I do appreciate that cuts have to be made but this argument about the
arts being a waste of everyone's time and money sickens me to the core.
16 Jul 2010, 12:40AM
Just to clarify in my last post, I meant SOME cuts! Not 25%.
16 Jul 2010, 2:16AM
Guess you should have told labour not to spend all the cash then huh? Its ok..we still have HBO
16 Jul 2010, 2:30AM
cut it all. just to see what happens.
16 Jul 2010, 3:35AM
It depresses me to read some of these posts.
“cut it all. just to see what happens”
I have just watched a tv show called “101 ways to leave a game show” on iPlayer.
This is what we'd be left with if we cut it all.
No confident writers, no honed directors, no experienced actors, no designers who have been able to find their style.
Just a formula.
Forget opera; ever watched Doctor Who or Billy Elliot or any of
those Saturday night talent shows. None of them would happen without
subsidy and Joe Public seeing other people's work. Virtually everyone
who works in telly, film and commercial theatre started in the
The arts take a TINY proportion of the national budget and return a
HUGE benefit to the nation (or those that can be bothered to look,
which is a great number – sorry Khiarosqero if you're not one of those,
perhaps you can just play on your Wii by yourself).
16 Jul 2010, 6:43AM
We live in a Capitalist society. Everyone in this society has to
abide by those rules set down through our economic model. Why is it
that your industry is so special it doesn't have to? What makes your
lot so special? Are you perhaps part of the vulnerable of society? or
is it because you find that you are too good to actually earn a living
like the rest of us? Why should you be subsidised and not the cleaners?
Because they have a far greater impact on the quality of life than any
theatre ever has.