Writing in the Guardian, Hannah Jane Parkinson bemoans a modest reduction of the Arts Council’s budget:
It goes without saying that the 6% budget trim, £39m of a total £622m budget, is presented in the most ominous possible terms, using a four-year figure, presumably to induce gasps of outrage. We also get the line, wheeled out repeatedly by the Guardian, that,
The creative industries contribute £90bn net to the UK economy.
A framing that not only jars with demands for further public subsidy, but which slyly conflates actual, self-supporting businesses, including TV production companies, designers and games developers, with the kind of fare more likely to be subsidised by the Arts Council.
So far, so Guardian. And then there’s this:
There seems to be no recognition of how powerful the arts can be in educating audiences, reflecting current events, exploring different views and opening up dialogue. In the past year alone, I have enjoyed Nicholas Hytner’s version of Julius Caesar at The Bridge, influenced by Trump’s America; The Jungle’s tale of life in the Calais refugee camp; Alan Bennett’s Allelujah!, a celebration of the NHS.
Readers will note that the artistic projects deemed exemplary are somewhat uniform in their default politics, which seem unlikely to differ much, if at all, from those of the typical Guardian columnist, or the typical Arts Council employee, or indeed the typical beneficiary of Arts Council largesse. Perhaps, then, we can hazard a guess as to Ms Parkinson’s definitions of “opening up dialogue” and “exploring different views.”
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The leftist lockstep of the arts and theatre establishment, and of recipients of Arts Council subsidy in general, does, however, produce moments of grim and inadvertent comedy. As, for instance, when the Observer’s Jay Rayner noted the “baffled silences” and the “almost total failure of imagination when it comes to working out what a play from the right might actually look like.” When pressed on this point, the suggestions by leftist directors were hypothetical productions that celebrate racism, sexism and rape. Because, clearly, that’s all that a non-leftwing play could possibly be about.
Publicly subsidised art and theatre will of course tend to favour a political outlook in which the subsidy it expects is most vigorously endorsed, resulting in uniformity and self-flattering parochialism. And so, we find leftist writers and leftist directors, all accustomed to decades of coerced public subsidy via overtly leftist institutions in a left-dominated part of the culture, claiming to be “dissenters” who are being “suppressed” when the level of subsidy fails to meet their expectations. And likewise, we arrive at the conceit that the rest of us will be educated by people who frame those who disagree with them in terms of absurd hyperbole – Trump as Caesar – or depravity – those imagined affirmations of rape.