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Student Contributions

James Hanson
Upper Sixth
Moberly's House

Subsidised arts should be first for the chop!

Subsidised arts should be first for the chop!

The current strategy of deficit reduction is a painful one for all of us. Services and jobs dear to us are being hastily slashed and streamlined in order to ease the UK economy back into the black, and understandably there is rigorous debate about where to trim. Considering almost everyone agrees that public sector cuts need to be made (though how quickly is a separate issue), it seems that certain areas must be prepared to see hearty reductions in their levels of government funding. To me, there is nothing more infuriating than special interest groups proclaiming that their area of employment is more important than every other public service and therefore should be exempt from feeling the pinch. Right-wing nationalist Tories, for instance, who are more than happy to see welfare and the like slashed to pieces but perish the thought of seeing a beloved patriotic institution such as the Armed Forces shrunk. Then there are ‘save our forests’ campaigners who see the rather sensible and economic suggestion of selling off areas of publicly owned woodland as more heinous than selling off the NHS. But if there is one group of sanctimonious, self-interested twerps that make my blood boil more than any other it is the subsidised arts lobby who contend that cutting government spending on theatre, cinema, galleries and opera constitutes some sort of social vandalism.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the theatre, I might even go so far as to say I’m a bit of a thespian myself, but even I have the common sense to realise that when it comes to reducing the deficit, the arts can be first for the chop. For the delusional likes of millionaires Helen Mirren and David Tennant to write to the Guardian protesting about the cuts smacks of the worst kind of sheltered self-interest that the arts can sometimes embody. Do they really think that the Royal Opera House’s latest re-arrangement of Puccini’s greatest hits is more important to the fabric of our society than hospital wards and police patrols? Do they really believe that the latest exhibition by another North-London impressionist constitutes the national interest? Do they really, truly remain convinced that government funded films are worth protecting whilst the ‘building schools for the future’ program is being scrapped? If they do, I am truly lost for words.

Not only is this breath-taking self-indulgence of an entire industry staggering, their unfounded claim that the proletariat somehow revel in the UK’s subsidised art scene is unbelievable. If one was to take a trip down to the Old Vic or the RSC, what would the socio-economic make-up of the average audience be? Not quite you’re average Tom, Dick and Harry I would imagine. Quite simply, funding the arts is a subsidy to the metropolitan middle-classes and the sooner somebody tells that to the pompous and patronising likes of ‘Dame’ Helen Mirren and David Tennant the better. And yes, I realise that the King’s Speech was financed by the UK Film Council, a body that is now being shelved as part of the government’s reduction of the deficit, and yes, I have seen the film and agree that it is a brilliant example of the glories of art and drama. However whose careers should be of more importance to the government? Thousands of public sector workers or Colin Firth and Tom Hooper’s? I’ll leave that one with you.

21 March 2011

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