At the Liberal Democrat Arts Launch in March, which countless actors, directors, writers, producers, drama teachers, musicians and artists attended, Nick Clegg pledged not to cut arts funding. This naturally pleased his audience including the likes of Sally Philips and Richard Dawkins.
However, it is not only those in the arts industry who benefit from state support of the arts, it is local people, children and businesses, who are able to watch subsidised theatre and visit free art galleries and museums, providing appealing tourist attractions.
Since the 1980s, a number of local authorities have adopted some form of ‘percent for art’ scheme, whereby all new buildings incorporate a quota of artwork. Major new public artworks have attracted visitors and have become part of the tourist and heritage industry.
This has been demonstrated in Torbay with Anthony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles installation that last year attracted thousands to the Bay. The exhibition helped generate hundreds of thousands of pounds of visitor spend and valuable press coverage for the area.
An exhibition by the very well known Damien Hirst will be displayed in Torre Abbey later this year, having already been displayed in Venice, London, Tokyo and Oslo.
The new Damien Hirst exhibition will not only raise the Bay’s cultural profile further, but will provide a source of interesting discussion because of the controversial nature of the piece entitled Mother and Child, Divided, which won the Turner Prize in 1995.
These exhibitions put Torbay on the cultural map and provide Torbay with an exciting space for innovative contemporary art.
It is clear that cuts to arts funding would be a bad idea. If anything, the money allocated to arts should be used even more to engage the community in new and innovative ways as a source of education, creativity, tourism and new business.
But if the Lib-Con coalition is planning to cut arts funding, they have certainly hidden it well in their newly published Programme for Government. This promises to increase arts funding by reforming the National Lottery so more money goes into sport, the arts and heritage. The agreement also promises to maintain free entry to national museums and galleries, and give national museums greater freedoms, which sounds promising.
It also seems to promote local media, which has sadly diminished in recent years because of the popularity of online media. The coalition says it will enable partnerships between local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote a strong and diverse local media industry.
There is good news for pubs and charities affected by Labour’s ridiculous live music restrictions, as the Coalition Agreement promises to cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music.
If the coalition government live up to their promises we can continue to enhance our cultural life and improve everyone’s quality of life as well as assist our way out of recession.