Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, the pingdemic and Brexit – some of you may have picked up on the cuts to arts funding that we flagged earlier in the year and which have now become a reality. It feels a further body blow to us as Arts workers. Despite the fact that the UK leads the world as a creative force this government constantly refuses to value the contribution we make – yes, globally, but more so socially as we look to try to heal ourselves, our communities, our neighbours and friends. Talk of levelling up has to include Arts and Culture. Scientific progress relies on creative thinking. We have to stop seeing things as binary – stop believing that we can only have one or the other.
While the asks are complex it is vital that we all put pressure on our own local MPs so they understand what is at stake here. The slow drip drip of this marginalising of the arts through a lack of funding and support is a very real issue.
So perhaps this week you could take a moment to write to your MP and remind them that Arts funding is vital. It’s easy to do – find out who your local MP is through this link and then cut and paste the below to let them know the importance of what we are all part of. Or write your own story. But writing really does make a difference and helps you feel empowered and engaged. Step into that space. It really does help…..
- Dear [Insert MP's name here],
I am writing to you today as a [Insert title/job description here]. It should go without saying that I am growing increasingly concerned about the way this government is looking to fund - or rather strip funding from - the arts in higher education. Although I recognise Gavin Williamson's desire to see more money put into STEM and medicine courses and, of course, the past year has shown us that these courses are invaluable, the arts are invaluable in their own right.
As a simple economic argument, the amount of money that is brought into the British economy as a result of the performing arts and visual arts is an astounding £11 billion a year. Our tourism, for example, is highly dependent on people wanting to see the arts as a destination point. Be it West End theatres or our free museums, people value and respect Britain because of the investment we have put into telling stories, painting pictures, lifting up voices from history, and sharing our cultural legacy. Generally people do not visit England to eat the food or even to prioritise seeing the landscape. Our tourism capital is dependent on cultural experiences.
As a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have already seen our freelance artist economy suffer, as several of our most valuable contributors have decided that they cannot continue their careers in the arts.
As much as STEM and medicine are always desperate for new talent to enter their field, the creative industries now find themselves likewise. Without access to the training and higher education within the performing arts, we risk permanently damaging the pipeline of talent which is more necessary than ever in the post-pandemic world. For many, particularly young people from the regions, conservatory training is not an option. Arts education through a university, although increasingly cost-prohibitive, is often the first, if not the only, form of creative training available to students from regional backgrounds. To pull the rug out from under university funding in music, dance, theatre arts, visual arts, and more is not levelling out. It is making it impossible for young people across our country to access the education necessary to develop their unique talents.
Finally, I wish to make a point that the arts and STEM subjects are not mutually exclusive. This is a mistake I see members of parliament making again and again through their arguments. Where will we get our medical illustrators if art departments are not funded appropriately? Where will we get the demo patients that medical students often use in order to practice both their bedside manner and their triage skills without appropriate drama training? Where will we get the level of ingenuity, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking to push our country toward being the home of world-class technologies if we do not have content-makers that can put those companies on the map either through graphic design, storytelling, or other forms of creative output? The misconception that one is either a science and math person or a creative person is very much based on a poor reading of science itself. Regardless of the joy the arts provide during a break, we also need creativity to push innovation and imagination forward within the STEM subjects, as well as to provide educational and market content to ensure individuals continue to invest in our economy.
Please do not fall into the trap of thinking this is a binary decision. It is not. An investment in art, drama, music, and dance at the university level not only opens up doors across the country to students who would otherwise have no access to these subjects, but likewise will continue to ensure that our legacy as a country is world-beating, both in the fields of creativity and in STEM subjects.
[Insert name here]