We are existing in nightmarish free market dichotomy, the fallout of which may only be noticeable in 10 years time. One of this government’s “difficult decisions” (no matter how much they trot out that phrase, I can confidently say it won’t help me to admire or respect the decisions they are making, difficult or otherwise) has resulted in, initially, standstill funding for the arts which is effectively a cut, and now an actual cut. Given the squeeze on local authorities, their often first area to cut back is also the arts. Meaning that some companies are facing a “double-dip” cut to their budgets.
Naturally, I think arts funding should be increased and that the arts should be considered more inherently in any government spending. But this is well worn territory and you’d be hard pushed to find an arts organisation that doesn’t think that.
The challenge that I think is particularly pressing is the fact that careers in the arts have become a viable option for so many young people currently in training. There are so many courses, not to mention government funded schemes that are encouraging young people to go into the arts. And if you follow the Conservatives traditional admiration of the free market then these courses are only going to expand – there are lots of willing ‘customers’ ready to sign up and pay for the benefit. However, when the government are systematically stripping away funding for a risky industry that requires subsidy what happens to all those young people? Do they then need to retrain as doctors, lawyers, teachers?
It’s hard to see the cuts to arts budgets on a local and national level as anything other than a slow dismantling of an industry. And I feel for those at the sharp end. But moreso, I feel for the young people who have built their education from GCSE to University around a career in the arts only to now be told that the country does not value it and is not interested in supporting it. Yes, studying arts gives you practical transferable skills and I would be one of the first to argue it. But removing the viability of a career in the arts through some short-sighted ‘difficult decisions’ is the equivalent of pulling a pretty threadbare rug from under the feet of a generation. Only time will tell if that generation is able to get back on their feet.