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.’

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