In a speech on Wednesday 24th April at the British Museum, Culture Secretary Maria Miller talked about the economic case that the arts had to make in these times of austerity. The point suggested is that arts funding from public funds should not be subsidising the arts for the sake of pure art, and that the arts must justify itself economically, such as through increased tourism: “I know this will not be to everyone’s taste; some simply want money and silence from Government, but in an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”
This could stimulate some fun debate.
Now, you can see where the government is coming from. If you are a public sector worker who has lost their job in the public spending cuts, you’re probably not going to be too happy to read that public funds have been used to pay for a famous international Soprano to play Mimi for three nights in a small town that wanted to put itself on the map, to a small crowd of people who could afford the tickets.
However, what if the event put that small on the map and it spawned a twenty year legacy of tourism? Or inspired some local young people to go into the arts, make it big and become international stars of brand Britain?
Clearly, how the return on investment is calculated is going to be an interesting question, and will it mean that those applying for arts funding will have to spend more time -and money- performing complex predictive economic modelling for an extra section on grant applications?
Another point to consider is how many of the icons of British musical culture made it there due to public arts funding? The Beatles and the Stones? Blur and Oasis? How should public money be spent? Do you think there is still snobbery in the arts? Would an experimental live techno artist be as likely to get funding as a theatre group or classical orchestra? Many questions, many points of view, possibly no simple answer to please everyone…
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