On funding for Arts Council England
|June 28, 2012||Posted by Isabell Kaley under culture|
Recently I read two absorbing articles on funding for the arts: one of them argued that funding should be cut, while the other suggested funding should not be. They were both plausible, and exceedingly persuasive.
Here I am going to put forward the pros and cons of the decision, and then will finish with my own conclusions. But first I will give you the background on what has happened with funding for the arts lately.
When the Conservatives came to power in 2010 the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced that it would cut 29.6% of arts funding over the next four years, reducing the amount from £453mn to £350mn. After this announcement Arts Council England (ACE) straight away cut 6.9% on all 850 organisations. Then the Liberal Democrats announced they would cut around 90% of arts funding by 2011 – by 2011 the cuts had only reached around 50-60% but they are gradually growing. In 2011, 206 organisations had had their funding cut altogether, while another 110 were somehow affected. Then another 1,333 organisations applied for funding, but only 750 of them actually received money.
On May 9, 2011, The Telegraph featured an article supporting the proposal to cut funding for ACE. They argued four main points. First, the money that would normally go towards the arts could now go toward something else; starving children, for example. Second, they brought up the emotive question, “Why should bus drivers pay taxes to subsidise rich people to attend an Opera at Covent Gardens?” Third, they said that small orchestras, museums, and theatre groups have become more independent in the last 20-30 years as they have started to fund for themselves. Fourth: “In a time of economic stringency, it is too much to expect a state that must provide hospital beds, school places, police and soldiers to pay for dance ensembles, theatre groups and ‘community projects’.”
By contrast, on June 18, 2010, The Vancouver Sun published an article on why the funding should not be cut, which The Independent then re-printed. The article said that cutting arts funding is in fact not about saving money, as it is well known that if the government spends $1 on the arts then within a year that dollar will increase to $1.36. It said: “Chopping the arts off at the knees not five months before the Olympics begin. Meanwhile, Olympic security and a new stadium roof alone cost upwards of a billion, and the BC Liberals have the nerve to say that they had to choose between supporting the arts, or feeding starving children.” The Sun then went on to say that killing the infrastructure is permanent, and that to avoid this future the arts funding must immediately be restored – if it isn’t it will take us three or maybe four decades to restore what we had built. It also claimed that some children have had a lack of exposure to the arts, and that this lowers intelligence, academic performance, and social interaction and concentration.
While I can understand both of these arguments, I have to say that I think the arts are extremely important, and any changes that might be made should be thought through very carefully.
I think funding is a valuable necessity for English culture – how else will we be able to support our local projects without it? They will most likely not be able to support themselves, and then from there it will spread until only the prodigious art building are still accessible, making the arts more expensive and available only to the rich. Not to mention the ruinous effect on our culture and the weakening of our theatres, music and artists. Without the arts the next generations will not be able to think creatively or critically.
I think that theatre groups should become more independent; the Covent Garden’s Opera House is a superb example of fundraising worldwide. It receives tremendously large sums of money from millionaires all over the world. This is when the quote, “Why should bus drivers pay taxes to subsidise rich people to attend an opera at Covent Gardens?” comes into the equation. We are asked why our money should go towards an upper-middle class theatre (which already receives millions of pounds every year from staggeringly wealthy people) that is out of the grasps of us less wealthy people. They also bring up the emotive argument that the money for the arts could now go towards something else, for example starving children. Do you truly believe that the government would put that money towards starving children? I doubt it. The money, at the mercy of the government, would most likely end up spent on insignificant and less important things. But the fact still remains that if you spend $1 on the arts, within a year that $1 will increase to $1.36, so the government could actually feed more starving children by supporting the arts.
The Telegraph also said that in a time of economic stringency it is too much to expect a state that must provide hospital beds, school places, police and soldiers to pay for dance ensembles, theatre groups and “community projects.” But it is well-known that these are the things that help young people learn and express themselves. This then gives young people a sense of accomplishment and pride when they create and finish an art project, which then builds confidence, helps them focus, and increases their self-esteem.