Some of you guessed right, it’s the Arts. As for those who didn’t, the effects of growing up in post-2008 Britain are showing themselves nicely. For those that guessed ‘Police’, I’m sorry.
The government has given £1.57 billion injection into “treasured” British cultural and artistic industries due to the current and predicted economic struggles of said industries. I would like to list and analyse the intricacies of the scheme, but I didn’t really have the stomach to read it. Perhaps Boris’ cabinet has intentionally done this for a laugh as the attitudes towards the Arts and Yemen run at a strange parallel. Yes, aid has been given but, equally, it has been given by a government which has exacerbated the need for such aid. Maybe this is Boris’ solution to finally become the Churchill-esque figure he wishes to be: create a situation in which you can be the sole hero for the group you have starved of resources. The Yemen Solution.
I did catch, however, quotes about how ‘important’ the Arts are to British cultural life and the pressing need to preserve their ‘world-leading’ status. Hopefully, the paradox is becoming clear. The issue of defunding British artistic and cultural industries and programmes has not suddenly been solved because of this injection, nor has their value suddenly increased by implication. The economic fallout of coronavirus will just be another battle in the current cultural war. It may seem like the Somme, but all the same, just a battle. British Arts are, arguably, world-leading; this leads one to assume that their funding should have always reflected this status. But, logic falters. Maybe the Conservative Party realises that sometimes great art is born out of poverty, hardship and strife and that’s why they have so underfunded the Arts; living in the hope the coronavirus recession will breed legions of Gallaghers, Delaneys and Lowrys.
The hard, cold truth is that the British do not really value the Arts to the extent we might like to think they do. We need only to look at the 4-month lag between the bailout for the Arts versus other, ‘more worthy’ sectors. I seem to remember Former Prime Minister Theresa May proposing that the fees for Arts and Humanities degrees should be a fraction of ‘more vocational degrees, essentially due to them not being quite worth it. Yes, a version of Britain is the home of great poets, musicians, thespians and whatnot but apparently, it’s the version of Britain you find on a postcard in Stratford-upon-Avon, not in the hearts and minds of Westminster
Artist Marcel Duchamp once said “What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It is not what you see that is art; art is the gap”. Here, Duchamp captures the innate human requirement for artistic expression. I can’t help but think that, for Austerity-era Conservatives, art is the “gap” between the car seat and the armrest, where good money keeps falling, never to be retrieved.
Image Credit: New York Times