We’re safe, it seems, for now. George Osborne has finally realised – or rather his aides have realised and quickly back peddled – that not only would the massive arts cuts we were all dreading would be a “false economy” (duh), but that the Tories would well and truly be in the shit when it comes to PR and electability.
Certainly they may have no real emotional understanding of the wishy washy romantic notions of art as healing for the soul, but they appear to at least acknowledge the many other more practical benefits: income from foreign travel; massive public engagement and thus revenue; education, community and youth support etc. The list is endless and indicative of how vitally important the arts are to our very society. Osborne noted in his spending review speech that the arts are “one of the best investments we can make as a nation”, and that £1bn a year in grants returns “a quarter of a trillion pounds to the economy”, at which point I’m screaming DUH! at the TV like I’ve got a question right on University Challenge.
At this point the notions of charging for museum entry, as well as the ongoing arguments against privatisation at the National Gallery are rearing up again. I’ve never really been against privatisation at the National, simply because the campaigners don’t seem to realise that given the economic straits the museum finds itself in, it would not have outsourced unless absolutely necessary: in what fairy land would the status quo be possible when funding is getting continually tighter? We’re all on the same side, guys. What would they rather, that the luxury and incentive of free admission would be scrapped? It is the lesser of two evils. Interestingly, Blythe House will finally be sold – though where the plethora of works gathering dust will go I’m not quite sure. Someone get Damien Hirst to buy yet another beautiful gallery like Newport Street and fill it with stuff owned by the Nation. That would really guarantee his place in art heaven. As a nation we are entitled to access. I’m thinking the incentive here is probably for the development of this juicy real estate into some luxury flats for more wealthy Tory pals to move in with more of their juicy money. Mmmmm…
Let’s not forget that while the brightest and best museum directors we’ve seen in living memory (Penelope Curtis perhaps spared) are departing in droves for foreign shores and tastier, more artistically risky jobs, the arts need all the monetary buffering it can get in what are sure to be wobbly times. So, we’re promised the same level of funding in 2019-20 as is given today, including inflation. Lets hope the U-turn/bend doesn’t turn full circle into a hUla-hUp and they end up cutting anyway when we decide to bomb Syria and need the spare change. Did I hear someone say Tuition Fees?!
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