When Society Goes Wrong

Now there’s a title.

This post is about the intriguing relationship between society and culture, the arts, more specifically, dance. Now, let’s take the great British nation as an example of my point here. Culture, the arts, be it dance or modern art (of which I am not a fan), is something that anyone who wants to be ‘somebody’ will want to be seen to be a great fan of and go to all the latest exhibitions and premieres at the theatre.

Actually let’s take away the wanting to be ‘somebody’ issue, lets concentrate on individuals, the general public at large to make this clearer. Everyone with a bit of culture in them, it seems, loves to go and see the latest shows and exhibitions and talk about them in great depth with their friends and colleagues at work, in the pub, at dinner parties. While this is all highly welcomed by those in the arts world and most appreciated, there is something that goes very wrong after this point.

In most walks of life, if you like something, partake in it regularly, get something from it be it big or small, you want to preserve it, share it and would fight for its very existence if it was to be threatened to be taken away from you. This theory exists and works in practice for most things in our lives. If your local cinema was to close, your favourite shop was to shut, the corner shop stopped selling your regular paper, your internet was to be cut off in your area, you would fight to hold on to them and do everything legally possible to put pressure on the culprits, organisations, businesses, governments that where trying to take them away from you. The ‘important’ things in your life right?.

But what happens when your own government, arts councils and indeed local councils decide to slash, and i really mean slash, if not stop all together, funding that dance companies and art galleries need so desperately to survive and operate? Nothing it seems.

Why is this? Yes we are recovering from the worst recession in recent history, yes are fighting in wars in Afghanistan and Libya, there are ‘important’ events happening around the world that we have to be seen to be helping with, and its not only the arts that have seen their funding cut. But why is it that the sector that gives most to us as individuals, our children, our friends, our partners, our communities takes the hardest hit?

Let me focus on dance in particular. On the 30th March 2011, the day the Arts Council England announced it’s awards and losers for funding for the three years between 2012 to 2015, 206 dance companies ceased to exist, or started the inevitable road to administration. Check the figures if you’re thinking, that numbers an exaggeration.

Also on that day, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), led by Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, announced that front line funding could only go down by 15% and the arts council would have to reduce its administration costs by 50% over the four years.

Ed Vaizy MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the guy with the say on funding for dance, came out defending the cuts. In the today program, when asked what will be different about this conservative government, the last one of course leaving many arts organisations in massive debt and functioning at 50% capacity; he is quoted as saying:

“It is just incredibly frustrating because it kind of implies it’s an intentional thing on our part which is ridiculous. We are in an economic crisis.” One, he maintained was caused by Labour.

He went on to deny that the government was cutting funding for the arts by 29.6% – the amount it is cutting funding to the arts council. He said it was, in fact 11%.

What we have here is someone who is supposed to be fighting for the retention of the arts in our society, but instead is letting the industry slip into serious problems financially and already has seen the closure of many companies and organisations. 206 companies, is not a small number to be sniffed at with all the other government cuts that are taking place. That’s 206 places where thousands of people rely on an income, invest all their love and passion in, spend most of their waking hours, and suddenly, it is all just gone. He went on to say:

“I think we have got a very good deal for the arts and it depresses me frankly that people will simply say it’s doom and gloom.”

Well Mr Vaizy, say that to the dancers, musicians, painters, photographers, choreographers, lighting technicians, wardrobe assistants, and cleaners that make these buildings and organisations function and are now out of work and their very livlyhoods threatened with being cut off and put on state benefits.

Is this is a culture we want to live in? I think not.

Taking it back to the title of this blog, ‘When Society Goes Wrong’, this is exactly what is happening in Britain and we all, that means YOU, your friends, your partners, work colleagues all need to unite and show the government we will not stand for this ludicrous decision that has been made.

How can the DCMS retain on their website that their aim is to:

“improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, to support the pursuit of excellence and to champion the tourism, creative and leisure industries.”

when they are behind such savage cuts. The arts give so much to Britain, it take youths out of poverty and puts them on the right trakcs in life, focusing them on a art form, it benefits groups in impoverished commuinities, it brings constant throngs of crowds to the west end of london and the many theatres of our great cities, and above all it brings happiness to so many lives throught our nation.

It may seem pointless putting these obvious points out there, but this is governement have to know. They have to know the grass root levels impact these cuts are having. and that will happen by everyone joining together as one voice and saying: Don’t take our arts away from us!

I leave you with the words of the wonderful PM Churchill:

“When Winston Churchill was asked why he did not cut funding for the arts to help the war effort he replied ‘what are we fighting for?”.

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