Wednesday, 1 September 2010
I have just been listening to a Radio 4 programme called Iconoclasts in which some bloke called Stephen Pillock (or was it Pollard?) proposed that arts funding should be scrapped as this country had better things to spend its money on than the arts and most were of little interest to the public in any case.
Although he was roundly opposed, I swiftly fired off a missive to point out that this once-proud manufacturing nation now had little else left to export except the arts, so perhaps our assets should be marketed more effectively, then they might actually pay their way and require less funding. In addition wasn't this country dumbed down enough to the point of a new class system evolving comprised of an underclass and the educated, and if there were no outreach exposure at all on the part of the arts to the culturally-challenged, this could only get worse.
Sadly, only my first point was read out, but it was interesting to hear Stephen Pollard floundering for words when countering my statement that this country was no longer a proud manufacturing nation. Finally he came up with an export retort we can truly be proud of - 'munitions'!
I nearly fell off my chair.
Selling arms to our enemies to use against us? What a good idea. Time was when that was treason, no less. Now, according to Mr Pollard, it is evidently more worthwhile selling munitions than turning our nation's artistic talent into a marketable commodity.
So many artist, musician and poet friends are not even receiving arts council funding and find it harder to scrape a living here (irrespective of the size of their talent) than they would in Austria, Germany or even Poland, where it is still customary to pay for art and entertainment and acknowledge the reasonable need of the artist to eat. In France you can even be a philosopher and get paid and valued for it.
Not that I disagree that some art is unworthy of the name, but hey, even the appalling stuff helps us recognise the extraordinary when we behold it.
I also count among the arts British television drama which has already proven it can be sold around the world successfully (the first major example - The Onedin Line - is still making the BBC money internationally and via DVD sales 40 years after its first series!)
Twelve years ago as an impoverished bank clerk I was awarded a BBC Radio Writing course by the Birmingham branch of the Arts Council which I could never have afforded otherwise. I may not have done much radio writing since, but I have done a great deal of other writing and it certainly helped boost my confidence in my talents and abilities. I have treasured the memory of that special week in the wilds of Wales ever since and can only hope that such nurturing opportunities are not quashed by the likes of Stephen Pollard.