Arts cuts? What arts cuts?

28 November 2012

Luvvies have never really liked Tory governments. Poor Tracey Emin was nearly lynched by the arts crowds when she had the audacity to let David Cameron hang  one of her neon pieces in Downing Street.

Things are getting heated with the new no-nonsense Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, who seems to have upset the triumvirate of darlings: Danny Boyle, Stephen Fry and Stephen Daldry. They have all laid into the government this week for apparently choking off arts funding, with the less-than-subtle undertone being that Tories are philistines. Needless to say, their star quality has given the story some glittering legs.

It is true that ‘the Arts’ are taking about a 30 per cent reduction in grant aid from the state; however, the drop from £452 to £350 million has been made up by reforms to Lottery funding. By my maths, an extra £90 million diverted to all things cultural leaves the thespians, folk collectives and dance troupes around £12 million shy of their funding levels before the evil cuts were announced; given that, and I’m plucking an example at random here, the police have had to deal with a 20 per cent budget cut in the same period, no amount of protest poetry is going to change public perceptions of that fact.


Maria Miller tells those who will give her a fair hearing that ‘we will always support the arts, but we are in tough economic times and the arts should accept that as other public services have such as Education and the MoD have.’

In reality though, while the welfare and defence budgets have been slashed, the arts have been wrapped in cotton wool to the tune of £2.9 billion in taxpayers’ cash between 2010 and 2015. £1.896 billion of that sum came straight from our wallets into the ample Arts Council coffers, with another £1 billion in cut-proof new lottery cash, something there won’t be an impromptu recital about.

One person who has not come to Miller’s rescue is Boris, who joined in the bashing this week claiming: ‘One of the key reasons that people come to London is for its arts and culture. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.’ A source close Ms. Miller hit back, telling me last night:

‘As a classical scholar, Boris Johnson will know that Aesop was a keen story teller. Indeed, The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg was one of his most famous fables. The irony is that so much of what we’re hearing from the arts world about the extent of cuts is fictional.’

Miaow. This could be a spat to watch.

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  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice blog and very interesting

  • Marcus

    The luvvies arguments are disingenuous.
    Far more of the best music is spawned from hardship and struggle rather than places like Poundbury.
    Ms. Miller, as soon as you see Steven Fu%#ing Fry against you; you know your doing the right thing.

  • Matt Wardman

    >the drop from £452 to £350 million has been made up by reforms to Lottery funding

    That’s a 22% reduction; your fraction is upside down. Don’t give them easy meat :-).

  • MrVeryAngry

    Cut it to zero. Now. If the ‘artistes’ are any good they’ll find a private patron. It won’t be me I grant you, as I have better uses for MY money. Oh, and I am a real taxpayer in wealth creating private business.

  • Adrian Hilton

    Unfortunately, the article I wrote on Arts funding last year has been lost on the revamped Speccie archive: I post this link because it seems germane to the discussion. Not all Tories are philistine!

  • obbo12

    Typical, multimillionaires wanting to spend other peoples money on something they like. If it is so important why don’t they put their money where their mouth is?

    • MrVeryAngry

      They can’t. They are too busy giving each other blow jobs.

  • FF42

    I am a big consumer of arts including, of course, subsidised arts. I suspect Spectator readership and staff include a high proportion of people like me. Even so, I struggle to justify spending tax payers’ money on arts, instead of other things.

    The issue with Lottery funding, as I understand it, is that it can only be used on one-off projects whereas the money is more useful funding continuity. It’s easier to raise one-off funds from sponsors leaving government money for the more mundane running costs. It’s a question of how, rather than how much.

  • Forlornehope

    Look at the history of art in Britain. Without exception all the greatest work has been purely commercial. When patronage was involved all we ever got was sychophantic rubbish. Ooops, I forgot Handel, silly me, well as he would have said “Die Aufnahmen machen dass Regel!”

    • salieri

      I don’t think he would. The exception is ‘die Ausnahme': ‘Aufnahme’ means a photograph, or in Handel’s day an intake or assumption. He wouldn’t have used the plural, or ‘dass’ instead of ‘das’, and it would have been ‘die’ anyway since Regel is feminine. And by the way, when did ‘forlorn’ ever have an ‘e’ on the end of it?

      I wouldn’t have weighed in with pedantry but for your bizarre comment that patronage has only ever produced sycophantic [NB sp.] rubbish. That’s tosh.

  • John Moss

    Lottery funding should be handed over only if it is matched £1 for £1 raised by the arts body itself and only if it is invested in an endowment fund to provide future revenue funding. That way we can set Arts bodies free and reduce state/public funding over the long term to near zero.

  • varangarian

    Note to the art world, subsidising the arts or keeping the lights on? Personally I am all for keeping the lights on as a priority, the arts is a nice to have an not an essential. £2.9bn that can fund a power station which keeps people warm, houses and industry powered and hospitals will stable power supplies.

  • Troika21

    You know, I never really liked Tracy Emin’s artwork; then she voted Tory and suddenly her art made complete sense.

    When will arty-types learn that art can, and should, make money. The entire art world seems to think that the only way for it to exist is to drink (deeply) from government funds.

    Probably why so much art is so damn terrible these days; since when do bureaucrats have any taste?

    • sir_graphus

      If subsidy is available for art which cannot otherwise be sold, it is a fact of market forces, that some artists will deliberately produce art which has no public appeal, in order to win subsidy cash.
      Funnily enough, the only really successful sector of the arts in Britain, rock/pop music, is the one sector which receives virtually no public subsidy. A lesson there?

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