(a brief overview of current arts funding issues on our
island in 2001)
My point here is not some hyper-libertarian roll back the state
the department one: mine is a save the arts sod the power
the department one. Indeed, anyone involved in the arts
industry should pack up now, unless they've got a half- finished
in their desk or a talent for tap-dancing.
We find ourselves confronted with a stereotype: the anguished
scornful of authority, unable to function except in an oblique
with society, indulging in a quiet revolution in her/his chosen
This person needs funding, and since we are a civilised
state purports to oblige, through trusts, the arts council, the
etc. The Artist merely fills in some forms, pursues the pursuant
and before you know it, the state has bought them some recording
a dirty great lump of marble or whatever. On this basis, we
arts administration industry, much as we tolerate a charity's
office, or Thora Hurd's salary.
The reality, I'm grieved to report, is distinctly more
me introduce you the the murky world of arts funding:-
Give us your huddled mass circulation figures:
The arts, all the arts, used to rely on the patronage of the
few: Michaelangelo buttered up the super-rich of the Vatican;
a prince. With the advent of mass-appeal culture, artists made
mass sales: so Dickens wrote bestseller soaps, while Rossetti
the chocolate box franchise; private patronage declined. More
the multinational money-factories weighed in, giving us
Random House, Sony and not very many many more...Patronage in
the old sense
ceased altogether, leaving a sizeable proportion of the arts
many of the 'high' arts like classical music and sculpture)
around in an ever-decreasing market: without million dollar
publicity, there was no demand; and without demand there was no
publicity. So, from the nineteen fifties onwards, the state has
with it's own system of patronage: hence the Festival Hall, the
V&A, Covent Garden and, well, not very many many more....We
that the Lottery, with it's intrinsic principles of base greed
chic, now generates even more cash to fund everything from
to computer animators, thus maintaining an healthy and
little island. Cheers.
Unfortunately, we have nothing of the sort. What we have is an
administration industry, living on the money meant for the arts
and growing ever more deadly; to the point where the system is
killing the arts, while suffocating any artistic temprament
our lean, hungry societal firmament.
Dictat and the brain-washing business:
This brings us to problem two: the ethic. If art has any value
it is about producing profit: generating wealth. Thus Andrew
Webber creates employment for all those poor stagehands, while;
Monty intrinsically and extrinsically demonstrates the
the modern creative artist and the modern paying punters who,
knows what they likes and pays for what they knows. Cheers.
The wealth ethic permeates every level of arts funding: a
must also be a budding businessman: "me plc". Unless you can
yourself, promote yourself, keep accounts on yourself, and draw
plans for yourself, you won't get a penny. The very first rung
of the arts
funding ladder is to turn yourself into a capitalist
in these forms, mate. Show us your profits forecast. Agree to
and conditions: no nudity; no promoting drugs; nothing
political, er, ever.
The worst of it is the younger artists get the message and we
out: they grow up with the understanding that you must be a
beaurocrat first and an artist incidentally. So she doesn't
paint her beautiful
minatures; instead she makes fashion jewellery. He gives up
and learns lighting and make-up; becomes a hairdresser.
tv ads and are grateful for the chance. Poets sell condolence
sell pornographic films. Actors sell lager. Cheers.
Classic case history: Mr D
This of course leaves the jolly old arts administration
play with itself. What does it do? It sets up a centralised
from london: a black widow's web of local representatives and
committees, intent on sucking any remaining life from those
hard-working, erstwhile, well-meaning, and only slightly
figures left outside the clutches of Murdoch, Branson, and the
The local arts administrators job cuts two ways: first, he
the odd grand here, the odd grand there, provided you sell your
new labour on the application form; second, he justifies not
penny on anything worthwhile on the grounds of the scarcity of
so on. He gets paid thirty grand, every year, for doing this.
Mr D is a classic case in point: he is a local one, apparently,
my painstaking researches have failed to ascertain where he
job title, or even a single beneficiary. But he gets money going
arts: it goes towards paying for him, the arts administrator,
on the bath of british culture; the Richelieu of south-east
particular one, this Mr D, is reported as saying that local
"culturally inbred". Well, er, cheers.
Now, I don't know what great place of learning Mr D attended to
his wondrous insight. Nor do I know how many years of rubbing
with Johnathon Miller, Pinter, Dylan Thomas, Bacon et al, with
compares our local offerings.
The spider's web envelops us all. Characters like Mr D all over
land are promising paltry hundreds of pounds to only the very
of projects. The arts wither on the vine. The arts
is healthier than ever.
See Vox Pop for contributions
to the Arts