A nation of culture vultures

Posted on 18 October 2013

It’s heartening to read that over 78% of adults in England had either attended or participated in Arts in the period of the Taking Part survey, which was carried out by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport

That’s very high, isn’t it? I wonder how many of those people realised they “participated in the arts” before they were asked the question. It’s the same question I have about a depressing survey which suggests that public support for funding the arts is falling. It’s a difficult question to answer unless you understand what it’s asking.

Thanks to the media’s love of scandal, many seem only to be aware of public funding going into what may be considered dubious projects, or elite art institutions like the Royal Opera House which don’t seem to touch their lives – largely because it’s in London and the respondent lives outside London. So when in these times of austerity they were asked if they support public funding for the arts, many people have said No (although interestingly many described as “opinion formers” said Yes).

I bet if they were asked instead did they support free access to their local museum and art gallery, half price tickets to their local theatre (at least, that’s what public funding allows at the Belgrade) and being able to participate in community activities in their own town, most would say Yes. And if they understood that £1 of public money to the arts generates £4 for the local economy it would be an even louder Yes.

With public funding to the arts, it is not “either the Arts or Nurses” but in fact it’s both because funding to the arts helps to generate the money to pay for funding to other public services. It’s only 0.05% of all government spending and it secures a rich infrastructure which means people all over the country have access to high quality arts events and activities that improve their quality of life – not simply those living in the few biggest cities. We need to keep it that way.

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