In October 2019 I attended an international theatre festival in Siberia. I was asked for my thoughts about the arts in my country. I was able to say that the arts were a huge contributor to the UK economy. More than £111 billion per year. I think many in the room couldn’t believe that was the case but I was quoting government figures.
Obviously the pandemic has closed theatres and impacted greatly on the arts industry but the arts still matter don’t they?
Last Thursday the news quietly slipped out on Election Day that there is to be a 50% cut to arts subjects at universities this summer. This will mainly affect students studying music. We know that the pandemic has caused changes to be made in the future but it seems a savage and thoughtless change when the arts are so important to us all.
Once again it seems that only the wealthier parts of society will be more able to access arts education. To me this is shortsighted. The creative industries aren’t just about making music, performing or making theatre. It’s about marketing, advertising and crossing over skills from one place to another. I’ve taught many actors in professional training over the years and I bet most of them aren’t working as actors any more. But I also bet that most of them are using the skills they learnt in equally useful skills to the country.
This is where I think the decision is so sneaky and short term in its thinking. Years ago a musician was interviewed about training in TV and he was interrupted by an activist who said how could he want money for musical training when he had just passed a man in the street who was begging? He demanded that peoples’ lives came before anything else.
I couldn’t follow the logic. Don’t we live in a world where we look after people when they need help AND look after everyone’s well being through the arts? The two things aren’t either/or?
The arts are valuable: they give us a space to go to, they soothe our souls and get us to think. They remind us that there are more things to life and they reach our feelings. Music is a big part of this and if in the future it is restricted to people from wealthier backgrounds it loses something for us all.
If you feel strongly about these there is a petition. If you agree with me do pass this on.