theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
I’ll save R&V readers the trouble of pointing out what I don’t know. I don’t know economics. I don’t know the principles or the politics of arts funding, either in Britain or in the US, where I am from. I am as unsure of the geography of the West End and Everywhere Else as I am of the boundaries of Broadway/Off-Broadway, and Off-off…, and I have only the most rudimentary understanding of subsidised vs. non-subsidized theatres.
What I do know is that the arts and the persons that I know through the arts, theatre, in particular, have brought me to Britain as often as I’ve been able to buy a ticket for the past 50 years.
My view of England is not thoroughly romanticised and unrealistic, all Cotswold stone and Lakeland daffodils and the tea shop across from Anne Hathaway’s. I realise that England is fraught with problems – that sometimes people have to wait for unconscionable lengths of time for medical care, that many can’t afford adequate housing, that even those who are well-housed worry about rats and rates and crime and parking and diminishing civility. I understand that the pluralization of British society is, for all its blessings, as problematic as is the wholehearted accommodation of all those “huddled masses yearning to be free” in America.
But I come to England, to Britain, because I truly feel that it puts me in the midst of a vibrant arts community, one that opens my consciousness to ‘life more abundant’, one that continuously invigorates and exhilarates me, that lets me feel and makes me think. When I stop for a coffee at Canteen in St Martin’s Court, where Jimmy and Karim greet me as if I were a daily regular and not just a twice-a-year interloper, I am just steps away from Wyndham’s, St Martin’s Lane, Shakespeare and Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Square, the Garrick, the National Portrait Gallery, the concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields – and I have a transcendent feeling of well-being.
I am therefore greatly troubled by the headline in yesterday’s Guardian, ‘England’s arts face bloodiest cull in half a century as funds are cut for 200 groups.’ Yes, it’s good that the biggest organisations have ‘fared well’ and that 41 organisations have seen their allotments doubled – I begrudge them nothing. But something is surely wrong when the Exeter Northcott Theatre loses its funding, at least partly because it is alleged not to be doing enough to widen its audience base, while Eastern Angles touring theatre, which does take theatre to ‘the most far-flung communities of East Anglia’, sees its funding cut in half. And surely it is not necessary to withdraw all funding from the National Student Drama Festival, a productive enterprise for more than 40 years, and to withdraw it just three months before the 2008 festival is due to take place.
Although reasons for particular cuts are just beginning to emerge, the Guardian reports that the Arts Council ‘believes it is better to put money into theatre training for students through the further and higher education sectors’. Putting money into education usually strikes me as quite a good thing. But is it good to fund education by withdrawing money from those who are producing art at this very moment? I want to see productions by Kneehigh and Punchdrunk and the Fierce festival. (I want to see them also in Mold and on Mull, for that matter.)
I am disquieted by the setting of arts agendas by persons other than artists, and I know that many others share this disquiet. In February 2005, for instance, Christopher Frayling, chair of ACE, expressed ‘his concern that the sacrosanct principle of arm’s length funding of the arts had been undermined’ grievously. Tessa Jowell, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is quoted in The Stage (8 March 2005) as saying, ‘Our relationship with ACE is good and positive…I have never, ever felt from them that they feel controlled by us.’ Her successor, James Purnell, might ask again today.
Ministers and other government officials often speak of the need for ‘measurable outcomes’. They crave knowing how many teenage pregnancies have been thwarted, how many newcomers from other lands have been enrolled in the WI, and how many of these desirable outcomes are due to ‘art’ – a skit or a poster, perhaps. Such ministers speak of ‘measurable outcomes’ in tones that suggest that the speakers do not expect to be denied.
The arts, however, do not have measurable outcomes of the sort that managers and government officials like to cite. I attribute to the arts the very sorts of ‘outcomes’ that Wordsworth credited Nature with: they often provide ‘tranquil restoration’. They almost certainly spur me – however mysteriously – to ‘that best portion of a good man’s life, / his little, nameless, unremembered acts / of kindness and of love’, and somehow they occasionally lead me to those moments when ‘we see into the life of things’. Those are very great outcomes, measurable or not. Surely there are some managers, some ministers, brave enough to trust to those intangibles, and to provide funding that will help artists to bring them about.
Linda Wyman © 2007
Originally published on R&V 18-12-07
Food & Wine
~ my everyday life through the lens of my camera ~
Helping Improve Lives
Vintage Inspired Paper Crafts & Digital Design
A journey through life in Southwest France
Historical Fiction with a French Flavour
It isn't being John Malkovich, but it is being me
Writer + Poet + Educator + Narrative Designer: Researching East Asian Literature, Folklore, Storytelling, Narrative Design, Game Studies & Pop Culture.
Daily Reflections from My Home and Garden
The Power of Story
Unlocking the Door to Your Past
Not just a blog, a philosophy
by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'
Realist, writer, reader, reviewer and rocker.
The Real England is a concise, direct, and not-so-gentle window into the depths of the leftovers of the world’s once greatest empire. It is told from the perspective of one lone (or not so lone) long term visitor. It informs one of the dregs of the country and helps to explain quaint British oddities such as the crack addicted chav.
home and away...
Artists, Writers and Visionaries Blog on the Unique and Ordinary
Collected works and other excuses from a textile obssessive
has random thoughts
Airborne, Seadwellers and Landlubbers Lives
Working with dead people
Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!
the darker side to sedge808
Photographs, music and writing about daily life. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Creative Intuitive from New Zealand
Family Saga Fiction by Adrienne Morris
Burgers, Books, Music, Movies, Offbeat Adventures & Pop Culture!
theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...
Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder
Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More
Traveling the World Through Others
A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.
Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History
Travel and Wildlife Adventures
Writer & Author
it's all about the story, possums...
Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...
Adventures in Watercolor Painting and Sketching, Watercolour Magazine, with Charlie O'Shields
Memoir, poetry, & writing theory
The Bridge between two countries
A lifestyle blog with a little bit of everything.
A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics
Entertainment, travel and lifestyle blog