17 May 2021


Further comments on the arts education cuts


From The Stage, 4 May:

Actor Samuel West, who is chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, branded the cuts "horrific" on social media.

  He told The Stage: "The arts are now shouting from so many barricades: Covid, education, Brexit, funding, local government.

  ‘We are spread thinly and getting hoarse. But even among the government’s recent proposals, this one is particularly ill-thought-out and must be opposed.

  ‘Art is not a hobby and talent can come from anywhere. Affordable music, drama and design courses fund a profitable world-class industry that keeps us sane and civilised.’

  West said the cuts would ‘narrow and eventually choke’ the talent pipeline in the industry.

  ‘How can you think that [our] industry is not “a priority”, unless through some twisted world view that believes turning out empathetic people who work collectively and are skilled in critical thinking is inimical to your vision? That punitive, philistine agenda is now the only explanation I can think of,’ he added.

  The Musicians’ Union warned that the cuts would be ‘catastrophic’ for music provision at HE level and said they would affect its members’ work, the financial viability of music courses as well as training for the next generation of musicians and music professionals.

  According to the MU, the notice given of the cut is ‘far too short to enable HE institutions to plan for September’ and could result in the UK losing its ‘world-leading status’ for music provision.

  Meanwhile, BECTU head Philippa Childs said it was ‘extremely disappointing to see the arts devalued in this way’.

  She added: ‘The arts make a vital contribution to the economy and the social fabric of the country, and it’s high time this was recognised by the government.’

  Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming said the union also strongly opposed the cuts.

‘This is yet another government attack on arts education, following years of deprioritising drama and other creative subjects in our schools,’ he told The Stage.

  ‘What is most troubling about the proposal to cut 50% of funding for these HE courses is that it blocks a route into the creative industries for working-class and other marginalised groups.’

  National Drama, the professional association for drama teachers, said it was ‘appalled by and extremely critical’ of the government’s proposal.

  Writing on behalf of campaign group MusicHE, Graeme Du Fresne, who is head of music and singing at Italia Conti, said opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds would be reduced by the funding cuts.

  Du Fresne said: ‘There’s a strong whiff of the government knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing in their thinking, which appears to be driven by the notion that graduate career income in performing arts subjects fares poorly with some other professions.

  ‘This analysis fails to consider a number of benefits arts performance delivers to communities and the country as a whole. For example, during the pandemic we have witnessed the arts’ ability to foster well- being, helping to heal and nourish the nation in lockdown.’

  Others who have spoken in opposition of the cuts include director Gemma Bodinetz and set and costume designer Vicki Mortimer.

  Mortimer argued that the funding cut would ‘threaten the financial viability of training courses in creative and performing arts, and reduce the opportunities for the next generation of creative-sector professionals’.

  A spokesman for the Office for Statistics said: ‘We are currently consulting on proposals and we will take account of responses from universities, students, and others before making any final decisions on our funding method.’

  The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.


16 May 2021

 A devastating blow to the arts.

The philistinism of politicians knows no bounds. Gavin Williamson, M.P. (he of the GCSE algorithms fiasco) has proposed cuts of fifty per cent to arts education budgets - for subjects not counted as ‘strategic priorities’ – with potential  ‘further reductions’ to central funding for such courses in future years, once again reflecting the lack of respect our government holds for culture.

    I thought the Secretary of State for Education was supposed to be on the side of education, not determined to decimate it? A ridiculously short deadline was offered for responses to a public consultation.

    Life is not simply making money. We need spiritual nourishment, such as the creative and performing arts provide; and to continue to provide this essential service, new blood needs to be trained and encouraged through education. The hunger for culture has been particularly pronounced during the pandemic. Who are Gavin Williamson, and the government, to say what subjects are 'important' (important to whom?) or not?

    If money is the primary consideration, which of course it is, look at what the arts earn for Great Britain every year, in addition to the worldwide reputation the arts bring to this country, and the reason why many tourists come here. The Society of London Theatres reports that more people go to the theatre each year than attend all annual UK League football matches

    Many educational establishments will close: the London College of Fashion has already said it will have to close if these proposals come to fruition. The fashion industry is surely a major earner of income for this country? £26 billion and 800,000 jobs according to the British Council - the country's largest creative industry, apparently. Under the new plans this will simply fade away because the supply of trained expertise will dry up. The arts and culture industry in general, according to the Arts Council, contributes £10.8 billion to the U.K. economy - more than agriculture - and generates £5 in taxes for every £1 of funding! Clearly not for much longer.

    And why has archaeology been included? I can only think that a future shortage (owing to the closure of archaeology courses) may mean not enough archaeologists to investigate historic building sites, to the advantage of greedy developers more interested in lining their own pockets as quickly as possible, rather than respecting our culture and heritage.

    If the government is short of money, save the estimated £100 billion for HS2 - a scandalous waste considering that the result is to get businessmen to Birmingham a mere 20 minutes faster!

    As Richard Jordan writes in The Stage (13 May): ‘It will take time to comprehend the emotional and economic impact of the pandemic, but the arts will clearly play a vital role in this recovery and the rebuilding of communities and lives, which is why I am gravely concerned about Williamson’s announcement.’