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Subject: Re: Arts Cuts (Reply All) | reviews, news & interviews

Subject: Re: Arts Cuts (Reply All)

Subject: Re: Arts Cuts (Reply All)

On hearing the government's spending plans, artsdeskers had a furious email exchange...

Mark Wallinger, with a 'save the arts' artwork above, thinks that slashing arts funding will have a detrimental impact on the arts. But what do theartsdesk writers think? You may be surprised...© Mark Wallinger

It began with a review of 100 Years of German Song. Roused by a comment to a reader (see Igor's comment below), Fisun was moved to email Igor in support of his trenchant views on arts funding.

It wasn't long before other writers at theartsdesk got involved and an eruption of lively and passionate emails followed. Some of these views may surprise our readers, some will undoubtedly annoy. But we at theartsdesk have decided to go ahead and publish, unedited, our unrehearsed and spontaneous exchange. We hope you'll enjoy, and join in, the debate.

It began with a review of 100 Years of German Song. Roused by a comment to a reader (see Igor's comment below), Fisun was moved to email Igor in support of his trenchant views on arts funding. It wasn't long before other writers at theartsdesk got involved and an eruption of lively and passionate emails followed. Some of these views may surprise our readers, some will undoubtedly annoy. But we at theartsdesk have decided to go ahead and publish, unedited, our unrehearsed and spontaneous exchange. We hope you'll enjoy, and join in, the debate.

Thursday, 21 October 2010 12:01 posted by Igor Toronyi-Lalic [theartsdesk comment box]

With that stance, Stephen and Third ager, you'd be forced to argue that no music produced before the 1930s had any "risk, experimentation" or "artistic ambition"? Because for most of its history, music has relied not on state subsidies but on philanthropic or capitalist support - and it has been as radical as you like. All that public subsidies do is, one, allow people who could afford to pay more to pay less - and thus, provide a ridiculous subsidy for the middle classes - and, two, stunt creative competition, allowing music to be sucked down into the deepest recesses of musical obscurantism. We should be weaned off subsidies asap. If (and, now, thankfully, it is looking more like when) this happens, Tim, the result will not be Raymond Gubbay. The result will be America, where every single major city has at least one world-class orchestra, where orchestras, composers and programmers have a healthy relationship with their audience and where music is being penned that people - in large numbers - want to listen to.

To:         Deskers
Subject:  Arts cuts
From:     FisunGuner
Date:      21 October 2010
12:56:51 BST

Hear hear, Igor, to the knee-jerk bollocks that's constantly written about arts cuts killing creativity and experimentation. I've seen more publicly funded visual art than I've had hot dinners, and most of it's toe-curling toss (and the art resurgence of the late 80s and 90s - whatever you think of it - didn't come about because of arts funding (in fact, it could never have come about in that way) but came about solely through the efforts of Saatchi, and was then made accessible to the public through the efforts of the RA - which doesn't get a jot of public money).

In fact, there's a very strong argument that arts funding strangles radical creativity and experimentation (socialist realism, anyone? - but you don't have to go to extremes - you see it in the soggy-minded same-old same-old crap tiredly trotted by by so many public art venues)  and I'm certainly not arguing this as a rampant reactionary right-winger - you just see the way it goes. I know this will get other people's backs up - but it's exactly why I wouldn't sign any 'save our arts' petitions. (Feel quite differently about science funding though...).

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 13:03:29 BST

Bit surprised by the pair of you, while I take on some of the things you say. The 'third ager' surely has it right about the big orchestras and opera houses simply not covering the costs even of their sell-out events, and America is a pretty poor example for artistic adventurousness, at least in those spheres.

From:     FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 13:22:44 BST

Why should you be surprised, David? Even if you don't wholeheartedly agree, there's a good case for stricter criteria for funding. Practically every venue which makes even the crappiest and most nominal attempt at laying out an 'education programme' gets funding. You can put out a strong and very convincing argument for the example you use, but you could put out a hundred more that can convince you that public funding of the arts can also undermine what it attempts to support. And, personally, I'm interested in the wider argument about funding.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 13:26:46 BST

'Stricteria criteria' - I certainly agree with that. And I know how much waste there is in middle management of many of these organisations (the Arts Council England being the worst example - let it go). But the trouble is it's always the people who matter - the performers - who suffer.

I do know that a lot of very mediocre electronic musicians have built lifetime careers on public funding.

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010 13:33:51 BST

From a grassroots new music point of view, I would say that a lot of the time the artists that suffer are those who are better at form-filling than they are at creating.

I am fundamentally on the fence regarding the general issue, but I do know that a lot of very mediocre electronic musicians have built lifetime careers on public funding.  Conversely, Resonance FM, which is a mecca for many of the most interesting minds in this country, owes its existence to Arts Council money, and is a very very valuable artistic asset.  I'm gathering some more opinions and info, but I think this is too tangled an issue to be polarised.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 13:37:02 BST

Right, Joe - good and bad commingled. And if I get dubbed 'stricteria' in future, I deserve it.

From:     mhudson
Date:     21 October 2010 13:39:01 BST

Agree with a lot of what you say, but as a sometime recipient of arts funding myself am reluctant to back any statement that would reduce my potential income by even 1p.

From:     I Brown
Date:     21 October 2010 13:41

Don't fall into the ideological trap of thinking all arts need same treatment. Single artists, singers and host venues are a different kettle of fish from dance companies, opera houses and arts education.

Also need to think less like blinkered Londoners and more about the national picture where theatre, music already shrunken to mass popular taste in big venues struggling for audiences and the only hope for different stuff depends on council-subsidised arts centres or local grants.  They are the backbone of national culture scene but yesterday councils lost 30pc of their money for next 4 years. This far more critical than whether ICA or ROH deserves more or less cut.

From:     FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 13:48:30 BST

This is my last word on it - maybe - and you're right, Joe, that it's a tangled topic. But there is also a distinction to be drawn over the issue of individual careers - (and why should those be protected anyway? - we all suffer career insecurity and no-one publicly funds poor old me or poor old you - why should a practising artist be any different? They shouldn't) - and whether public funding is good for the arts. And obviously, the two are quite separate, distinct issues.

My original argument was that public funding has never proved itself to be good for a flourishing in creativity, quite the reverse - the example I used was the art resurgence of the 80s and 90s - all private money. It would never have happened otherwise.

From:     william.ward
Date:     21 October 2010 13:55:20 BST

I totally agree with you on every point you make, Fisun, couldn't have articulated it better myself. And I don't agree David with your inference that the fact that American culture is tamer than European culture because it is privately sponsored and not publicly funded. That is due to reigning - or at least dominant - socio-cultural mores in the US where have little or no purchase in Europe. Proof of that?

For every privately sponsored show/event in Europe which is tame or corporately-congruous, and I will show you a thousand state/regional/municipally sponsored events that clearly reveal the socio-political of the funding body. In any country you care to choose. Becks beer stopped funding their own prize at Edinburgh when they perceived it was no longer cool. ie not edgy enough.

Personally I can't wait to meet my first unemployed Arts Manager at Christmas drinks parties (or wherever).

I despair that every council in the land employs a public art 'facilitator' or whatever they're called

From:     FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 14:02:39 BST

ok, this is really my last word, and it's re ismene's point. I personally despair that every council in the land employs a public art 'faciliator' or 'officer' or whatever they're called, specially for the commissioning of public art (leave our pavements and patches of grass art-free please - too much, already!) while they cut and cut other public services. And I'm not coming from any ideological viewpoint, I'm coming from years of quiet observation - it's a waste of money.

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 14:06:44 BST

re America story in today's nyt - puzzled that the home of Keynes has rejected his advice that Govts should spend not cut in recessions. Someone needs to keep spending. If everyone cuts together then we definitely will end up in another recession.

I would say that like any business there shd be money for reserch and development - some of which pays dividends. Talking to Martin Ware of Heaven 17 for an article Im doing he was the beneficiary of an arts centre in sheffield - which produced the Human League, Heaven 17, Cabaret Voltaire - which ended up making millions for the UK in tax. Its one of the things this country is known for and excells at- exporting music.

There's a respectable argument that for each pound invested in the arts - two pounds comes back - OK thats vague - but part of the "brand" of the UK is Stratford etc which tourists come to and arts vistors spend more money than average tourists.

That said - there's no doubt money could be targeted better. I've also been subjected to vetting from an arts consultant employed by ACE when I was working for a festival who was the biggest bullshitter I've ever met - if people like that lose their jobs - hooray!

I also think things like cutting the BBC World Service would be shooting ourselves in the foot - it creates a lot of goodwill towards Britain throughout the world.

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010 14:57:11 BST

The art you are talking about, though, Fisun, is big, publicised, monetised work.  And yes, Saatchi, the free market and the artists' crypto-Thatcherite entrepreneurialism helped with that.  But the environment in which the "YBAs" actually came of age artistically was their art colleges, particularly Goldsmiths... and the last time I looked, our education system was still heavily publicly funded (admittedly the last time I looked was yesterday, things may very well have dramatically changed since then).

Do you really think Hirst, Lucas and co would have emerged fully formed and ready to (literally) set up shop without that environment?

From:     mhudson
Date:     21 October 2010 15:01:00 BST

Re joe’s last comment, without publicly funded art colleges, Hirst, Lucas and co wouldn’t even exist.

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 15:03:42 BST

Countries like Moroccco, Singapore, Abu Dhabi are putting millions into the arts because they recognise the value of attracting fairly well-off cultured visitors.

Everyone is raving about El Sistema and the Venezuelan example - which is socialistic in principle. That poor kids from the barrios are going to benefit from the exposure to great art. Think something like that would happen without state subsidies?

Likewise - the best classical musicians in the last century came from Russia or America?  Communism won that one.

I have seen amazing musical and multimedia pieces put together on a shoestring and performed in small-town arts venues that couldn't survive without public funding

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010
15:04:15 BST

Meanwhile, art which is never going to sell for £40,000,000 might still have a value.  Our cultural climate is not dependent on those headline-grabbing artists, much as they might like to think that their success brings some kind of trickledown benefits to those grubbing about below them; it is dependent on artistic practice being available to all - and that is what funding can help with. I can't speak with great authority about visual art, but I do have plenty of experience of seeing amazing musical and multimedia pieces put together on a shoestring and performed in small-town arts venues that couldn't survive without public funding.

As I say, I am fundamentally ambivalent. I know that art which is both radical and populist can rise in harsh financial conditions: after all, the acid house movement and all that followed it genuinely revolutionised British creative culture, and it came about through the drug-dealing, football hooliganism, empty warehouses and boredom of the late 1980s recession...  But  I also disagree with the idea that the evidence shows that the majority of funded work is characterless, and I say that from experience too.

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010 15:08:02 BST

Again looking at the electronic music and jazz worlds, look at Scandinavia: Sweden, Finland, Iceland and particularly Norway are currently punching above their weight creatively by a number of degrees of magnitude, and that is because they have funded not only musical education for all, but performance venues, festivals, foreign tours and advertising of their indigenous music scenes to the wider world.  And there is nothing bland about some of the fusions of death metal, free jazz, disco and abstract electronics I saw on a Norwegian-government-funded jolly to the Numusic festival in Stavanger last year!  (mind you, they probably clawed back the entire cost of my plane ticket in tax revenue on their ruinously expensive beer)

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 15:10:01 BST

Agreed - El Sistema is the light of the world!

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010 15:14:29 BST

Yeah, shame it feels a bit tainted by Chavez's increasingly demented apologias for Iran & other unsavoury governments...

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 15:16:18 BST

But it was around long before Chavez (tho' don't ask me what the politics were like at the start).

It's a sign of a civilised society that people should be studying philosophy, literature etc. It's like flowers. Useless, but sad the society that only grows veg

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 15:20:13 BST

another specific example - my dear pal the sadly late Malcolm Mclaren spent 8 years at Art College doing a fair amount of dossing about with no obvious results. Then more or less invented punk, did Duck Rock (forst hip-hop/global album) and loads more stuff. Poland actually hired him at one point to advise them on rebranding their country.

I also spent time doing a humanities degree - reading obscure novels - and squatted for several years. Also did a Masters in the useless subject of Anthropology. Turns out it was of use - to me, anyway. You couldn't do that now very easily (incidentally, the next-door neighbour squatter was Jem Finer - of the Pogues and won a New Music Award) Not everything should be monetisable etc - having time to get pissed and discuss the meaning of life is no bad thing - and I'm certainly not going to argue that only "useful" degrees have any value and say todays students shd only study "useful" subjects.....

I would say it's a sign of a civilised society that people shd be able to study philosophy, literature, etc - without getting burdened with £50,000 debts....  It's like flowers - useless - but sad the society that only grows veg...

Media Studies, though, I'm more sceptical about, I must say.

From:     joe.muggs
Date:     21 October 2010 15:25:47 BST

Ah now I guess here, and in what I was saying about the NBAs, we get into the question of whether funding should purely be for nurturing the unformed artist... it seems most of the positive examples we bring are of either educational establishments or venues, where artists can feel supported in finding their feet or doing uncommercial projects, or of programmes that promote artistic scenes in general (as one imagines the British Council is supposed to do but so rarely manages to).  Might it be fair to say that this is where public money does more good, rather than in big public art projects?

Mind you, The Angel Of The North - publicly funded, beautiful, popular and conducive to a more general public sense of the aesthetic??

From: FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 15:27:58 BST

Yeah, but remember, most publicly-funded art school students sink without a trace - it isn't free school placements alone that nurture success - tho the name of Goldsmiths did come to attract dealers like flies because of Hirst and co. The reason Hirst and co were different was because they did literally do it for themselves - very entrepreneurial.

And, in fact, I've always considered Hirst to be more of a brilliant project manager than an artist. Instead of waiting for galleries to give them their first show, Hirst famously organised one himself - which Saatchi came to see. Lucas and Emin set up their own art space as well - some inspired junkyard in Waterloo. Think of it what you will, but it was the spirit of the age, and its like doesn't happen very often - necessity, as they say, being the mother of invention... no amount of public money could have managed to do the same.

A good deal of money is being wasted by orchestras on pointless outreach schemes in order to win rewards from the State. None of it works

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010 15:45:53 BST

We should be very wary about taking the guys who run El Sistema at their word about the kids coming from the slums. I've read not a single interview where this is in evidence. It has the whiff of propaganda to me - just like the East-West Divan that contains barely a handful of Palestinians and the Orchestra for Peace that was funded by an arms dealer.

Art should stay clear of social engineering. A good deal of money is being wasted by orchestras up and down the country on pointless outreach schemes in order to win rewards from the State. None of it works. I see no hard evidence of more diversity - ie more CDEs in audiences - than before. It is simply done to assuage our middle-class guilt.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 15:51:12 BST

I can contradict that, or at least the reports I've seen, including two admirable documentaries, can. Why so black and white? Certainly Dudamel was from a middle class family, it's true; Edicson Ruiz, now double bass with the Berlin Phil wasn't. Anyway this seems trifling compared to the fact that 250,000 children are playing instruments around the country, and thousands more have been inspired in various ways to pursue the idea around in the world. We should be so lucky even in our so-called middle class state schools.

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010 15:55:21 BST

Orchestras don't cover their costs because their ticket prices are ridiculously low. And if you think that will dissaude the thousands of spare-a-copper Tiny Tims that are clambering to get into La Boheme, then why does it not dissuade these same street urchins from paying full whack on a season ticket at Stamford Bridge? The lowest ticket at a Premiership match by the way is 20 quid. That's near to the top price you will pay to get to a Prom. It's absurd.

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010 16:00:21 BST

250,000 children playing instruments in exchange for basic human rights. Sounds like a great deal to me.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 16:03:02 BST

Again, why 'either' 'or'? Abreu's philanthropy had nothing to do with politics in the first place. And don't you understand that these are actually human rights for the participants?

People go to the theatre or gallery expecting to be thrilled and fulfilled - they don't go because it's a do-gooding activity

From:    IBrown
Date:     21 October 2010 16:10:01 BST

What I wish is that the necessary rethink of how the public should support arts should have inspiration at the forefront, not education - grab people by the instincts, not by the intellect - that's what creates pseudery.

1. People go to the theatre or gallery expecting to be thrilled & fulfilled - they don't go because it's a do-gooding activity. Price is almost immaterial here - people pay a lot for football because that particular audience expects a good time, & even if they don't get it in a goalless draw or whatever, they can pick it over with other equally interested people in the pub later.

2. When cuts are done for next 3 years the flagships and special interest/social work projects should have the hardest scrutiny. Flagships usually the ones with the bureaucracy attached (top salaries! ROH top dog gets £650,000!!! Another gets nearly £400,000.). As Igor says (though in too Manichean a fashion) quite a few arts companies are funded to right society's wrongs: to get disabled people dancing, or give Asian women a choreographic outlet, or a special music centre for a rough East End estate. These are fine aspirations but they should be recognised as being education or social work and their priority assessed from that POV.  PS Arts Council if it saves 50% on admin will only save a tenth, i think, of the money it must cut - 90% will come from arts orgs.

3. Be bold. It's better to have fewer strong organisations than many weaker ones.

4. Fill the theatres. They exist, the public surrounds them. The large theatres shd be made the centre of touring strategy - they require & deserve to have the largest national institutions based in London, the Royal Opera, RBallet and National Theatre etc, touring to them.

5. Spread it about, small stuff, large stuff. Push digital broadcasting of live art events to regional cinemas. But remember it's the art that matters at core, not the medium.

6. Loads of medium-sized theatres in towns have too little in them & they're in danger of collapsing. Stop scratching about at the tiny studio end where the in-crowd congregate & boldly push more for medium-chamber sized opera and dance, including variety bills like samplers, to  help generate and itnerest neglected audiences everywhere. We shd pick up on the French & German model of medium/chamber companies that are light to tour & accessible in their thinking. Encourage the Rambert, Matthew Bourne scale.  Dance is loudly talked about on TV & by MPs, and it's the most obvious, and most economical touring strand at the creative end of stage arts, so use it.

7. Reform arts education. Training should be aiming towards stage, not lecture halls. Vocational stage arts training (music, opera, dance) should be joined up with jobs available so they have a genuine hope of finding a good job in Britain. Too many so-called "academic" courses in dance theory & choreography, narrowly feeding the dance education profession in circular fashion without having any good impact on giving us more great choreography or a supply of properly educated artistic directors. Kids all want to do film studies - but we don't have a film industry. Our conservatoires & arts academies should be focusing on feeding our best companies and also raising all-round potential theatre leaders.

8. While keeping museums & galleries free for UK citizens, consider getting foreigners to pay entry, as they do in other countries. When I'm in Russia I always pay about twice as much as a local to get in. Don't know how to do this practically, but we have already paid our tax towards the museum when we arrive for our free entry - strangers have paid nothing.

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010 16:10:47 BST

And I don't see why artists should be immune to failure? You mention, David, how difficult things are for musicians in America? Things are difficult for journalists. And gardeners and bankers and cleaners and fishermen and and and. Failure and difficulty is a necessary part of any creative process. If you don't allow orchestras to fail you will never give them the opportunity to change and adapt to what might be needed in today's circumstances.

With orchestras and opera houses, it's an especially expensive business, a far cry from comics, small-scale theatre and singers in the Wigmore Hall

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 16:56:07 BST

"What might be needed in today's circumstances" - what's that supposed to mean? When we have concerts all over the place that could be sold out ten times over, yet don't cover their costs... that, surely, is one clear criterion for success. With orchestras and opera houses, it's an especially expensive business, a far cry from comics, small-scale theatre and singers, quartets, pianists in the Wigmore etc.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 16:57:30 BST

I'm with Ismene again - especially on taxing tourists to visit the museums. Can't this be done at the airports, or by issuing special cards which cost a bit? Tricky, I know.

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010
16:23:11 BST

What's so ironic is the endemic conservatism of the don't-cut brigade. Cuts give us an opportunity to rethink everything we've ever taken for granted. Almost in a rather Maoist way. Conductors' massive salaries. Numbers of concerts. Music programming. All of these things need to be rethought. Art forms may even die in the process. So what. We once had masques. Who's the worse off without them? Not I.

From:     mhudson
Date:     21 October 2010 16:29:38 BST

Personally I think football should be subsidised so that middle-class people can afford to go.

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 16:30:54 BST

The thing about failure is - we need to be able to afford it. Like any Research and Development unit anywhere -  a drug company for example - they have to invest to find stuff that works and most of it will fail. In any case, as Mclaren used to say "Any fool can be a benign success - it takes guts to be a failure"/ A world without arts subsidy would be a world of benign success. Gubbay would rule.

Ps It's absurd to say El Sistema are all middle-class kids. I agree with Rattle - Abreu shd probably get a Nobel Prize. Likewise linking it to lack of human rights. Abreu would say - access to to great art is a human right in itself.

Well, that does amaze me. Yes, first comes eating, then come morals, but... but... we've not regressed that far. Yet

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010 16:55:37 BST

Art is not a human right. It's just a bit of fun - or should be. And in the company of health, education and defence, it needs to know its place and it needs to get right to back of the queue.

From:     david.nice
Date:     21 October 2010 16:58:40 BST

Well, that does amaze me. Bread of life or after-dinner mint? Yes, 'first comes eating, then come morals' but... but... we've not regressed that far. Yet.

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 17:14:07 BST

"Art should take its place in the back of the queue"? Behind a couple of aircraft carriers without any planes? Behind a few billion for an illegal war? For example. And, yes, I do miss masques. They sound like a lot of fun to me.

From:    IBrown
Date:     21 October 2010 17:15:13 BST

Art is at the back of the queue - Health budget 109.8billion,  Defence 24.7billion  DCMS 1.1billion (of which Arts Council 445million - which is just 2 percent of the Defence budget).

From:     FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 17:54:50 BST

Actually, I agree with Igor - what's more art, as a human endeavour, will always find a way to express itself. But you can't say the same about good healthcare provision. Art is not a 'human right' because you can't systematically ensure that good art gets produced, in the same way that you can systematically ensure good healthcare provision (there is no one to 'confer' that right). There isn't a 'best practice' in art - as there might be in healthcare or education - because art doesn't happen like that. When you have that kind of bureaucratic thinking in art, then you're sorely in danger of getting crap art.

Perhaps Igor should refuse to attend those horrible funded events at the ROH and spend weekends on a tractor in solidarity

From:     igor.lalic
Date:     21 October 2010
20:16:11 BST

And my final word, having just been reminded of it by the ever- impartial Beeb, is to tell everyone how much I vomitted when I first  saw David Shrigley's odiously patronizing and crappily drawn cartoon.  The vomit was probably Barbican sized. I cannot tell you how angry it makes me: their feeble attempt to tug at our middle-class heartstrings  by reminding us of those millions of Damian Hirst-loving Northern  farmers and their 4-year-old sons that will now be prevented from  getting into the RFH because of these cuts. Though of course it has always been notoriously difficult getting a parking space for all those tractors down the South Bank.

From: FisunGuner
Date:     21 October 2010 20:25:41  BST

Ha ha- you're just being a provocateur now, Igor (no fan of Shrigley's, mind)

From:     peterculshaw
Date:     21 October 2010 21:01:14  BST

I imagine the state-funded Acropolis put out a few farmers at the time. The Taj Mahal definitely did. Was it better a few farmers were upset or these great buildings were built? Igor's empathy for the agriculturalists is touching.  Perhaps he should refuse to attend those horrible funded events at the Barbican and ROH and spend the weekends on a tractor in solidarity. Of course, conductors and stars bloated salaries if funded by the public purse is ridiculous - but better targeted funding - (bring back Masques?) - is a damn good thing. Keynes was right, anyway - the Govt shouldn't cut (much) in a recession - it's just ideological anti-statism and appealing to the British sense of masochism.

ps I seem to recall TAD was thinking of applying to the Arts Council for funding as well.


@i Brown: do you seriously think art ought to have budget parity with Defence? Health? Education? Come on. @peter culshaw, context is everything. If I farming on the site of the Taj was my life I'd still not want it built even though it is as fine a building as exists. Look at the poverty of 90% of the sculpture on the 4th plinth, or up for the Turner prize. Ask yourself how many Turner winners you can name. Now try nominees. How do you like the Tate Modern? Does it need an extension? Really? And if it does should the taxpayer be funding these?

You misrepresent me. No, I don't think art ought to have budget parity with defence/health/education. Where did I say that? I was asking for the argument to be put in proportion. This debate doesn't have only two sides: one that it's subsidised no matter how wastefully, and other being that it should have no subsidy at all.

Actually the best argument in favour of arts subsidies on this site i've seen is from "Pomegranate" after Igor's piece Someone who knows America and the arts better than we do. As for the farmars at the site of Taj Mahal - OK a few of them were pissed off to move. Millions have had their lives enhanced by that building.

Quite right Ismene - let's keep a sense of proportion here in all respects. I'm fed up with hearing that 'just because I saw / heard this piece of modern art and it was pretentious (i.e. I didn't get it), I don't think any public money should be given to the arts'. Art may not be a necessity in the way that housing, welfare etc are, but it is still the mark of a civilised society, brings great pleasure to millions of people (and not just to the rich, one of the great achievements of public investment) and is undoubtedly worth a few bob of all our taxes (£7.50 a year per head funds the Arts Council; many people on all incomes are happy to pay Sky £50 a month). I have been to three of Birmingham's toughest secondary schools in the last 36 hours for concerts by the CBSO's strings, wind and brass. Altogether we have done 25 such concerts since Tuesday, all in schools that otherwise have little or no access to live music. This was only possible because there is a full-time, top quality orchestra here in Birmingham, with an excellent team of (mostly poorly-paid, young) staff on hand to organise the concerts professionally. And we only have that because of sustained funding from ACE and Birmingham City Council. Long may it continue.

No one, absolutely No One, is arguing that just because they saw a piece of modern art that was pretentious that art funding should be cut, Stephen. We cutters are delivering a way more sophisticated argument than that and you're doing it a total injustice to reduce it to this level. Art is NOT a mark of a civilised society. It just isn't. Even the Congo has amazing art for christ's sake. And yet the socio-political situation there is absolutely tragic. There is No correlation between art and civilisation, as anyone who has an even basic knowledge of history would know - ever heard of Nazi germany, Stephen, Richard Strauss, Bayreuth? "Many people on all incomes are happy to pay Sky £50 a month". What a self-defeating point. So why do you think that the general public don't shelve out the necessary sums for art? Why? Because they Have No Interest, Stephen. They Do Not Care about the CBSO. They care far more about Sky. And why not. It is a bloody great resource. Hurrah for Sky. Hurrah for Fox. Hurrah for Murdoch. It is not the job of the CBSO to teach Birmingham about classical music. That is the job of the education system that has, generation after generation, been decimated by the NUT, by people like Stephen, people on the Left, who have taught the children of this country little if anything about classical music. And now, after years of forcing the philosophy of relativism on our children - leaving them brainless - these same smug, pensioned Lefty administrators want to tell us where OUR taxes should go. Well they can Eff Off.

Thanks, Tory Boy, very eloquent. I'm assuming your post is ironic. If not, What makes you think I'm a 'lefty'? And if you have so little interest in the arts why are you even reading the arts desk?

Oh no! A Comment is Free troll has discovered The Arts Desk! The forces of hell have been unleashed. It must be a parody, mustn't it??

Tory Boy - I'm your worst nightmare - a leftwing teacher who's also the school NUT rep. I'd be interested to know more about your personal experience in the state education system. I, and thousands of my colleagues, make every effort to give our classes access to interesting cultural stuff. Alas, my efforts always feel stymied by an increasingly Gradgrindian, target-driven National Curriculum. Didn't the Tories introduce that?

Assuming Tory Boy is not a spoof, and politely passing over his rather distracting Penchant For Extreme Over-Emphasis, he raises some interesting points. Unfortunately all of these points are baseless assertions, subjective to the point of detachment from reality - which is grimly ironic for someone who rails so hard against "relativist philosophy" (I wonder if he can outline what "relativist philosophy" actually is, out of interest, as it has a honking whiff of Daily Mail strawman). I don't think, for example, that anyone suggests culture saves us from humanity's worst tendencies, but I can tell you right now that people in the D.R. Congo are more glad of what culture they have access to than you can possibly imagine; in my extensive experience the more deprived people are, the more passionately they feel that some culture or other is an absolute essential of life. And that is precisely why every possible effort should be made to ensure that our cultural gene pool is rich and diverse - which means supporting those artists who are not natural-born hustlers as well as those skilled in clawing or form-filling their way to the top of the heap. That gene pool should be a many splendoured thing, not just swimming with Hirst sharks. This debate is not about high vs low culture or CBSO vs Sky, it is about MORE culture vs LESS culture. And since Godwin's Law has proved true and the topic has been raised, LESS culture is precisely what Adolf Hitler's regime was all about, right?

What has been particularly interesting in this debate is how it has been thrown into relief how radically different are the ways in which funding is used in different artistic media and at different stages of the creation and consumption of those media. Perhaps what it's showing is that The Arts as such are too diverse in their form and function to be treated with a single policy approach: after all the entire ethos of The Arts Desk has been that decisions on what to cover and how should be devolved to specialists rather than being the responsibility of a single "arts editor".

As an American, I am not surprised to see again that odious tradition unique to England, the philistine arts writer. That could be why their Greatest Composer is Elgar and their Greatest Painter is Augustus John. It explains why there is a larger collection of Pop art in a town like Forth Worth, Texas than in the Tate Modern. They are the types who wouldn't know good art if it bit them in the butt. Glad to see nothing changes in Jolly Old..

No, unfortunately Hitler didn't want 'less' culture - just the right kind of 'culture' - hence his attack on 'degenerate' artists. There are those, far less extreme I'm happy to say - both from the left and the right - who also advocate 'the right sort of culture'. But this is really beside the point. There's a crucial distinction to be drawn between funding for arts education and funding for the arts. My own point was whether state subsidy of the arts - nothing to do with arts education in schools - has ever produced a real flourishing of creativity in the arts. My argument was that, actually, it probably hasn't. In fact, not just probably, but quite the reverse. And, Amstram, you might be interested to learn that I had a fairly crummy state education and - whether parody or not - am forced to agree with splenetic Tory Boy. It's nice that you 'expose' your kids to a bit of culture - but how many of them go on to be barristers, or doctors, or maybe classical musicians, or writers? Or even go on to read regularly? Anything - novels, newspapers?) My own schooling - in which a left-liberal ethos expoused an unshakable belief in the culture of 'relevance' - was fairly chaotic, and this remains the case for lots of kids from working-class backgrounds. In the end, exposing them to a bit of 'culture' might make teachers feel great about what they're doing - but, from my own experience, it will have a limited impact on the kids themselves. It's a bit like putting plaster on a gaping wound - it can cover up an awful lot at the time, but, in the end, it's just covering up the real damage that's being done - and being wilfully ignored. If less time and money and energy was spent on 'creative activities' - whatever that might mean - and, yes, more time on teaching kids to read and write properly - because it really doesn't - then surely that would be much more of a step forward? (Sorry to sound like the Daily Mail - that's absolutely not where I'm coming from. What's so tragic is that I'm not presenting a caricature of state education for most deprived kids - that caricature is sadly real, and it's often the middle-class liberal who doesn't realise it.) And I hope we get some more comments from readers, not just TAD writers....

Fisun, probably 97% of my efforts in the classroom are geared towards raising my kids' literacy and numeracy levels. I don't 'expose' my kids to the odd bit of classical music, good bit of art or decent poem to make myself feel better, but because that's how I became interested in the arts - because I had teachers in my 1970s primary school who did the same for me, and I'm eternally grateful to them for having done it.

Education and Health are said to be untouched anyway so no issue here. What should be avoided is making many artists/musicians unemployed: 1. The arts are vitally important to the UK’s economy . The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP, and every £1 invested in culture produces £2. Two thirds of the adult population in the UK enjoy the arts, and music on its own contributes nearly £5 billion to the UK economy. 2. Between 1997 and 2006 the creative economy grew faster than any other sector, accounting for 2 million jobs and £16.6 billion of exports in 2007. Arts and culture are also central to tourism in the UK: this was worth £86 billion in 2007 - 3.7% of GDP - and directly employed 1.4 million people. Inbound tourism is a vital export earner for the UK economy, worth £16.3 billion to the UK economy in 2008. 3. At a time when our general economy is struggling, it seems illogical to cut spending and therefore cause permanent damage to the arts – which is one area that has consistently maintained growth. So no "Arts is a bit of fun on the side" comments please. Thanks. (Quotes from

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