To all creatives and philanthropists across the UK, to all who value quality of life; free thought, choice and expression.
Now we must stand together.
It will not suffice to only be concerned about what Arts and Culture provision, support and initiatives are available on your doorstep. Our objective, collectively, must be resolutely to have congruence across the UK in terms of the Arts provision and support available in all localities; the health of our culture depends on it. Pressure needs to be kept up on the government until they realise the value and vital nature of UK-wide as well as worldwide creative networks; our interdependence on dynamics from across the country and internationally.
Our networks, digital and actual, are far reaching; the term ‘local’ has broadened as our communications and access to information and different geographical areas develops at an accelerating rate. The world seems increasingly smaller, and rarely do people exist purely within their immediate context, whether mediated or not. What was once unobtainable is now at our fingertips. Now is the time to call those networks into action. There is no excuse for exclusivity.
No geographical area can stand independently of the exchange of ideas and dynamics which comes from the contribution which all areas of the UK provide to the Arts scene. To be parochial or provincial about this now, in the light of the budget cuts, would be a self-inflicted blow that the Arts in the UK cannot afford to suffer. There are a huge amount of engaging things going on, across all areas of the Arts, being produced all over the UK, vibrant and passionate microcosms of the wider Arts scene all enriching the larger picture. It’s simply not relevant to have a London-centric or any other centric view of the arts and culture; we’re familiar with life ‘norf of the watford gap’ and in ‘the ring of the M25’, as we are aware that the Arts is not simply about exhibiting art pieces. No narrow view will do.
Press your MPs about what is happening UK-wide. Repeat the question or paraphrase it when they bat you back some non committal response. Press them for more information, details, when they tell you it’s one of their priorities. Find out about initiatives on the other side of the country to you and all the places inbetween, and support them, as well as the ones on your doorstep. Take an interest in independent arts, artists initiatives, cultural advocacy services, small galleries and cultural access and education. Be creative, be engaged, show your support and get involved in opportunities to see, attend, participate and contribute in whatever capacity you can.
We are a creative lot, with a good few brain cells between us, whether the politicians or distractive media would have us believe it or not. The pressure that we apply to the authorities now, and the way in which we support each other will dictate how the Arts scene weathers this rough period and individuals and organisations, big and small, find their footing forward. The cultural abandonment or dereliction of any area, subject or location, will have a massive knock-on affect on the Arts scene and UK culture as a whole. It is our cross working and our communications which keep the the Arts and creativity thriving, and in turn our wider culture benefits from our awareness and exploration of issues pertinent to life in the 21st century. The Arts need investment, time, passion and money; we want to put in the passion and time now lets make it clear to those who hold society’s purse strings where our priorities lie. Want civilisation? Then say ‘Enough!’ of being taken for a ride through these ‘uncivil civil’ wars and the endless posturing of pompous politicians who do not hold dear humane and inclusive values, whose priority is simply serving their position.
These issues do not relate purely to the Arts, but to all aspects of UK culture; this needs to be symptomatic of a cultural shift; towards a celebration of diversity, and a move towards real choice and voice, not settling for the illusion of these things or being fobbed off with “well this is the best in the circumstances”. A Society in which people are recognised for their particular skillsets and supported to develop these, in the interests of the individual and society, rather than marginalised, which leads directly to disengagement or potentially extremist behaviours. There is so much potential which is currently not just untapped, but subdued and censored in the machinations of our governance infrastructures. Being elected should not negate a government’s responsibility to the people it serves; to work in the best interests of the entire population, rather than in their own interests or that of their socio-economic background. Or should it?
The Arts are a medium by which we reach people, they are the forums and opportunities we create to connect to ourselves as individuals, to others, to our environments, to the social and political contexts which create the parameters under which we exist, and our sense of our own humanity. Music, film, art, text, poetry, theatre et al; creativity is our means of enlightenment and exploring possibility, without which cognitive ability is redundant; we simply become the memory banks of conditioned empirical information and predetermined lines of thought.
A Call to Save the Arts is not about ensuring there is provision of watercolours at your local library, or that Boris Johnson gets to commission another £19.1 million sculpture soon, it is about standing up for our rights to express ourselves, to be able to make a choice for ourselves and to challenge the assumptions that politicians expect us to swallow, as reasoning for decisions which dramatically affect our quality of life and basic human rights. It is about actively valuing these things and making that recognition, of the importance of consistency of provision, access for all, regardless of location or discipline.
We won’t be fooled into thinking the politician’s way is the only way. There exist many possibilities about ways of creating revenue to support the UK economy, plenty of which would mean a shift from that of parent state to a state to one which allows for organisational as well as personal responsibility, accountability and contribution. A Society that operates in recognition of individuals skill sets, of the contribution which individuals and organisations make to the wider picture, of our interdependence on UK-wide and international dynamics. A society which not only allows personal choice and voice but also develops the moral and social conscience for capitalism necessary for a sustainable, vibrant and ethical future.
The Arts, in all its glorious forms, can reconnect us to our humanity, or lack of it; where the institutionalised bureaucracy of government and will simply dehumanise us and strip it away further, if we allow it to continue to do.
Here we are together in this. Keep communicating, keep creating, keep networking, keep applying the pressure; what will we allow this to become?
These are our systems, meant to serve us, now lets make them work for us. Text and Poster By Rebecca Mellor