Kimon Daltas - 2 April 2013
Divide and rule. Is it a conscious strategy on the part of an embattled government with a slim mandate, or a side effect of reactive policies in a difficult economic climate? A dose of both perhaps. With the bulk of planned cuts still to come, the rhetoric of ‘scroungers’ versus ‘strivers’ has already spread far further than any tenuous basis in fact should warrant. (Yes, there are scroungers, but at around the percentage level of shoplifters vs shoppers. We good citizens disapprove, and certainly pay for it in the price of goods, but somehow don’t feel the need to demand a shake-up in retail or the public flogging of Messrs Marks and Spencer.)
Something similar is going on in our sector too. The arts are being painted as unnecessary luxuries, at the national as well as local authority level. Handed trimmed budgets by on high, councillors needn’t be complete philistines to consider emptying the bins essential and running an arts centre expendable. On the other hand, new Arts Council boss Peter Bazalgette promises to make the most of a bad lot but doesn’t seem to think that it is within his remit to question the very necessity of cuts. However, we are not dealing with an act of god here: the economic crisis is a given, yes, but there are plenty of arguments out there suggesting that swingeing cuts aren’t the best way of dealing with it.
Directly or indirectly, a great many of us in the wider arts industry depend on tax payers’ money for our livelihoods. And we have to stand up for ourselves and our colleagues, not because we’re rareified scroungers with a sense of entitlement, but because what we do ‒ ok, what you do ‒ is actually an important part of what it means to live in a civilised society.
Conveniently, it makes economic sense too. The arts sector employs a vast number of people, and they collectively create our most successful export as well as one of the main drivers of tourism. Cuts? They don’t add up.
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