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Hannah Nicklin » Gesture Politics and the Arts

Gesture Politics and the Arts

Price of love

Image shared via a creative commons license on flickr by VampzX_23

“According to UNESCO the UK is the world’s largest exporter of cultural goods. Now there’s something. When have we been the world’s largest exporter of anything recently? And this is achieved with a tax payer investment which is 0.1 percent of the recent HBOS bailout. Not only that, with this tax payer investment we generate more economic activity than tourism, and we do this without a bonus culture, and without a ‘talent drain’. Now is the time for banks to have artists on their boards so they can understand how to use public money properly.”

Talking Birds are an awesome company, for more reasons than the above statement. I think every theatre, arts and culture company should have this on their website. Talking Birds did so just after the credit crunch hit.

Lots of blog posts are flying around at the moment about funding. Arts companies, used to the abuses of Tory rule, are battening down the hatches and readying their defences. Then, today came that expected announcement:

“Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt has been appointed as Culture Secretary – and he has already signalled that the arts are in line for up to £66 million worth of cuts as part of the drive to reduce the national debt.” (Source)

As DanRebellato Retweeted “So much for Vaizey’s ‘the Arts are safe with us’”.

This is a foolish move in the extreme. The Arts are largely seen as an easy cut, not necessary, and granted health and education sound much more important… if you believe the arts aren’t a part of either. However the truth is worse than that, the truth is that this action is at best, gesture politics, and at worst, extremely damaging to the economy. As Marcus Romer points out here

Arts funding spend [only] amounts to 7pence out of every £100.00 of public spending”

The actual amount of public spending accounted for by the arts is minuscule. And then there’s the money it brings in. Following a recent question to Ben Bradshaw (the previous Secretary of State for Culture) Alexander Kelly of Third Angel found that:

“Last year, at London theatres alone, VAT on tickets generated £75m in income. Arts Council England invests just over £100m in theatre.

One way of reading this would be to say that the government doesn’t subsidise theatre, theatre more than pays for itself out of VAT alone”

It doesn’t just pay for itself, it brings money in, especially with the VAT hike that’s largely expected.

“The DCMS also point out the wider, and better known, arguments for seeing subsidy of the arts as investment that produces a massive return.

“However the economic impact of theatre and the subsidised arts is much greater than just VAT. The creative industries, including a number of subsidised sectors, account for 6.2% of the UK’s Gross Value Added (GVA), £16.6bn in exports, and 2m jobs.” (source)

All this on an investment of 0.1% of what we gave to HBOS during the banking crisis, for an amount that wouldn’t even register on this infogram of UK money

When Winston Churchill was criticised for investing n the arts during heavily increasing war time debt he simply replied ‘people need something to come back to’. The arts are how a culture examines itself. The science of humanity. The arts and play are at the very root of our inventive potential, and increasingly important to the future of science and tech as the areas between arts and tech are blur in the light of a connected world. By cutting the arts budget so drastically, not only are you removing one of the soundest and most profitable investments a country can make monetarily, but culturally too.

Where else should cuts be made? How about Trident, for a start, I hear that’s worth £130billion, the ACE entire subsidy is 0.076% of that.

#dontdoitnick #dontcutartsfunding

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Great post by Hannah Nicklin on the potential cuts in arts funding:

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