Tag Archives: arts

The Arts and humanity’s cause

For many years, I have been at what is today referred to as the intersection, in this case, of culture and politics. As someone who has worked in different ways and continues to in the cultural area, I have always seen the connection. As one, also involved directly in politics, more so. I particularly want to convey this on this excellent political site, contributing so regularly as I do, and appreciating very much all those involved.

There is overlap, and rapport between, cultural politics and political culture. This is true of the theatrical stage and on the political stage. Some time ago I did something about the need to link these, in keeping with liberal values, and contribute more as a result. It is a project in development. It is The Arts and Humanity’s Cause. A website set up and given shape is now joined by a channel which it would be marvellous if people could subscribe to on YouTube.

There is much to do from now in a situation where, as a result of the pandemic, there is a significant effect on  livelihoods as well as lives, a  cultural politics that needs greater awareness, and a political culture that needs greatly to change.

I see the scope of the connections that can and should be further explored. I have just partnered with the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum. This is a forum which I contribute to, and work regularly with, as a member and writer. This terrific project was started by Sir Peter Ustinov, who was amongst many things a Liberal all his life, to continue his legacy as a man of many parts in the arts and as a humanitarian. He set it up originally at Durham University, where he was Chancellor. It continues online as a part of the Ustinov Network, which is an international effort with Sir Peter’s son, artist Igor Ustinov, at the helm. As someone of immigrant origin, with different aspects to his multinational background and family, the Ustinov efforts feel poignant and personal – to understand and eradicate prejudice. Yet these are efforts we can all, here, relate to and take up ourselves.

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A theatre of the absurd!

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It was very welcome to see a centre right chancellor acting like a centre left one.” You can tell there are few things to get excited about when you begin to quote…yourself!

This was something I said, and of course it was about Rishi Sunak, in my most recent article. And just when I thought that the operative word for me was acting, as in acting like, what does the chancellor do, he delivers millions to theatres!

So the operative word, in fact, was also centre, as in centre left. This chancellor is the most left wing since Gordon Brown! And just as we  think we are led by a chancer, we see it is the chancellor we must keep our eye on, out for the main chance!

My previous piece was an angry reflection on the awful decision to reinstate tenant evictions and benefit sanctions during the pandemic. But just as the callousness of this emerges from the DWP, so too now does the creative industries support of a billion and a half arrive from the chancellor. “The creative accounting of Rishi Sunak,” might well be the title of this chapter in the story of this man and his government. Creativity beats callousness, but as I said before, also, oh the confusion, of this government! I do prefer confusion, to callousness, but like creativity best of all!

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Part 2: Why the Liberals Democrats should be the natural political home for Arts and Culture in the UK

Part Two – How We Can Support The Arts And Culture Industry In The UK 

The Arts and Culture industry is currently wrestling with a plethora of issues that we already hold high on our agenda.

Mental health still carries a stigma within the Arts, with performers and backstage workers, for example, knowing that were they to share their struggles with anxiety or depression, the chances of them being employed would be substantially reduced. Productions are run on a tight budget and timescale, and the risk of employing someone who may be in the eyes of a producer ‘potentially unreliable’ is much too high to take.

Sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace remain commonplace in many renowned creative buildings, where the rules of other industries seem not to apply, and young employees are treated as commodities, with management buoyed by the knowledge that the pool of people wanting to work in the industry far outweighs the number of jobs available.

Despite recent improvements, there remain great challenges with diversity, with the Arts still being dominated by white, middle class men, leaving women, who are further penalised should they have children, working class talent, those with disabilities, and minorities largely underrepresented.

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Why the Liberals Democrats should be the natural political home for Arts and Culture in the UK

Part One – Why The Arts And Culture Industry Deserves Our Support

The Arts and Culture industry contributed £11.8bn to the UK economy in 2017, grew by 10% (five times faster than the wider economy), employed over 674,000 people, and returned £5 for every £1 of Government funding.

Creatives – certainly the ones I met in my fourteen years as an actor and director in film, TV and theatre – are predominantly liberal, progressive, and pro-EU. Now, more than ever, we should be their natural political home.

The Arts do immeasurable good. As well as contributing greatly towards the economy, they also help to rejuvenate towns and cities, provide us with a vehicle to understand, challenge and inspire the world we live in, enhance social cohesion, play a vital role in the development of life-skills such as confidence, self-identity and expression in individuals, and even act as a means of therapy, particularly successful amongst young children who have experienced great trauma.

Yet, no political party seems to fully appreciate or understand the true value of the Arts, leaving many creatives without a political home.

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Layla Moran: We shouldn’t be punishing children for taking part in dance and music

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Back in the day, I used to get permission to be away from school to take part in the local arts festivals. It was good for me to broaden my experience and skills and good for the school to see its pupils win awards and present themselves well.

So I was pretty annoyed to see that the Royal Academy of Dance had complained that the Government’s rules on term time absence from school prevented children from taking their dance exams. From the BBC:

According to RAD exams director Andrew McBirnie, before 2013 ballet exams could be run “during the school day and the student was able to leave a class at say 10 o’clock, do their exam and be back by lunchtime – and that seemed to be a perfectly legitimate activity that the student might be doing as part of their all-round education.

“Increasingly over the last few years… there have been more and more schools saying: ‘No we can’t allow this any more because of this issue with unauthorised absence.'”

Just this week, a study showed the beneficial effects of structured music education on cognitive ability and academic performance:

Structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s cognitive abilities — including language-based reasoning, short-term memory, planning and inhibition — which lead to improved academic performance. Published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research is the first large-scale, longitudinal study to be adapted into the regular school curriculum. Visual arts lessons were also found to significantly improve children’s visual and spatial memory.

Just like when I was at school in the 80s, a Conservative Government squeezes school budgets and music specialist education is the first to go, as a report in the Guardian highlighted last week.

The director of the Royal College of Music has criticised the “steady decline” of music provision in UK state schools.

Prof Colin Lawson used a speech celebrating Prince Charles’s 25-year association with the school to add his voice to a situation that Andrew Lloyd Webber has called a “national scandal”.

Lawson praised work that has been done to analyse the effect of arts and culture on public health.

The Liberal Democrats have long opposed the limits to term time holidays anyway, but Layla Moran had this to say about today’s reports:

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Lessons from Finland on Universal Basic Income

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Aditya Chakrabortty, a Guardian Columnist, recently travelled to Finland to interview a man who’s been part of a Universal Basic Income trial. The scheme gives 2,000 randomly chosen people, who were already receiving unemployment benefits, £493 a month unconditionally. The scheme will finish properly at the end of 2018 and no official results will be published until then, but there is anecdotal evidence from a number of interviews conducted with people chosen to take part.

One such person is Juha Jarvinen. When asked by …

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Public funding for the arts should be cut during a recession, right?

Grant Wood - American Gothic - Google Art Project

Well, er, no. “America after the fall – Painting in the 1930s” is an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts which breathtakingly displays how public funding for the arts during a depression (let alone a recession) can work wonders. As part of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, the Federal Arts Project employed artists to create visual art works, which eventually included over a hundred thousand paintings as well as many sculptures and other works. Artists who benefited included Jackson Pollock. There were other New Deal art projects such as the Public Works of Art project, the Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Treasury Relief Art Project.

All these programmes helped to produce an extraordinary decade for American Art, which is reflected brilliantly in the Royal Academy exhibition, on until June 4th in Piccadilly, London.

What comes over is that the decade established a distinctive American Art world, which was finally free of reference to art elsewhere. There is an extraordinary variety of styles producing a most colourful and impactful exhibition, reflecting the profound changes going on in the USA at the time.

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Danny Alexander says Liberal Democrats will continue free museum access

Danny Alexander at 10 Downing StreetAccess to museums and galleries such as the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Science Museum and the V & A will remain free under new Liberal Democrat proposals according to The Guardian which quotes Danny Alexander as saying:

Our museums and galleries are some of the best in the world. They are a source of inspiration and education for millions across the country. As Liberal Democrats in government we’ve played our full part in making sure they have the funding and operating freedoms to widen access to all parts of society. The fact that attendance is at record levels and that last year was the first time that a majority of people had visited a museum or gallery shows that free access is a policy that works.

“We’re now committing to maintaining that free access in the next parliament so that people from all backgrounds and income groups can make use of these great institutions without concerns about the cost. I see this as another way of helping make sure that as many people as possible have the best chance of getting on in life.

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Opinion: Art for Wealth’s sake

Pity the artists. The writers, sculptors, composers, musicians and actors. We believed we were struggling in our 21st century garrets, eking out an existence, surviving on our day jobs. At least we were suffering for our art. Only it turns out that we have been bitterly deluded. The latest report from Arts Council England (ACE) demonstrates with forensically gathered evidence and logic that we’re off the scale when it comes to ROI (that’s Return On Investment as any thespian will now tell you).

Outperforming

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)’s study for ACE shows ACE gets less than 0.1% of …

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