March 4, 2015
“We believe that the arts are vital to a healthy, thriving society; that great art has been at the heart of all great civilizations; and that all people should have the right and the opportunity to engage with high quality art that helps them make sense of their world.
We believe that the arts hold both intrinsic and instrumental value: that they enhance capacity for life, experience of life and have powerful applications.
We believe that our world is undergoing huge changes, and that we face unprecedented environmental, economic and socio-political challenges. We believe that in these difficult times, the arts are more important than ever: they can help us to question our ways of life and the systems that govern us; help us to feel better about ourselves and our communities; and help us to recognise ourselves as agents of change.”
This extract from our Manifesto is the rationale for our work. It drives our programme and shapes our strategies. Without art the world is a darker place. Fifty years ago Jenny Lee (Arts Minister for Harold Wilson’s government) published the first White Paper on the Arts in which she argued that “In any civilised community the arts… must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.” She argued that an enlightened government must support art and artists. This was long before the days of art for a socially driven imperative: to tackle social exclusion… improve health and quality of life… and the raft of other applications it has been successfully put to and funded for over the last twenty years. Lee valued the intrinsic benefits of arts engagement.
But in our current climate the arts are being eroded. Arts Council have been savaged by cuts; DCMS has been exploring how to evaluate arts on purely economic terms; the arts are disappearing from our schools; and artists are being presented as valueless drains on the state. The recent Front Row Debate: Does the State Owe Artists A Living highlighted the grave cause for concern.
With just 63 days to go until the General Election this is the time to be lobbying our politicians; reminding them of the value of the arts. From the breath and depth of participatory work engaging diverse local communities; to the work of outstanding professional artists who open up the space for reflection and new thinking in our one-track world: the arts matter. It’s time to stop celebrating philistinism and dream of a better world, and the arts are central to that process.
Lobby your M.P.; look at Operation Mobilise; see what Devoted and Disgruntled have to say. Do something! Now’s the time to make sure that the voices of artists, and of all of those who reap the rewards of arts activity, are heard. In Jenny Lee’s words: “A new social as well as artistic climate is essential.”
The time is ripe.