The Art of Austerity

Everybody likes a bit of Corbyn. He’s like that teacher or old-enough-to-be-your-dad lecturer with the intellectual charm, you simply can’t help but be impressed by, and slightly attracted to. It’s that passion and realness of someone who’s lived life, lived through real political experiences, been hands on, (not balls deep), and actually campaigned for change.

To a newly politically-enthused population, Jeremy Corbyn addressed the issues of Arts and Culture austerity, highlighting the ‘cataclysmic cuts’ ongoing and proposed for the future, and what his proposals are to prevent this.

Corbyn’s suggestions to combat this, however, still ignite hope. He proposes to invest in the arts to ‘rebuild the foundations of artistic enterprise’, to encourage every child to learn a musical instrument or act on stage, to widen access to the arts, to direct a greater proportion of funding to the arts by funding local projects, create more outreach programmes for young people from flagship national projects and protect the BBC from further cuts

Obviously, as a student of the college of arts, and even as a writer of this article for Arts and Culture section, I am in strong agreement with Corbyn’s proposals. As a believer in free speech, and free will, I believe the arts serve as an important outlet for expression, be it educational, social – or even just for your own sanity, as a student, living under a 5-year Tory regime. Are we harking back to a cyclical Thatcherite-driven ideology of elitist arts, reserved for the toffs, looking for a good night out at The Arts Club?

(Yes.)

Talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. There has been a colossal £82,000,000 in cuts to the Arts Council budget over the last 5 years. And as a nation we pride ourselves on our music, dance, and theatre contributions, and our advancements in education and, with Labour founding the Open University in 1969, making the arts and other education accessible to all, this is a particularly sad loss.

Why have the arts become so undervalued in recent years, in both the academic and political arena? When I talk about art I refer to the humanities, literature, and even archaeology- all defined within the School of Arts at our very university. When asked recently what I study by a Glasweigan taxi driver, my response was met only with dry sarcasm:

‘What dea yea plan on doin’ wi’ that? Be the next female Indiana Jones?’ 

Though I do find this funny, it would be nice every now and then to be met with a refreshing attitude, other than people just saying:

Oh, that’s…interesting.’ 

Art is not useless. Corbyn slates the current government for cutting arts funding to the point where projects quite often have to justify their artistic and social contributions. Yet, these contributions are plentiful. For instance, arts linked to inbound tourism are upwards of 42% in the UK. Similarly, the government report for Creative Industries 2015 Focus on Employment, found £1.9m people work in creative occupations- and so our economic recovery is thus reliant on such people. With the Arts Council grant cut by 36% since 2010, and George Osborne set to outline £30bn of spending cuts to government departments by the next July budget, it is set to be a tough few years as a lover of the arts, and all things remotely entertaining and heartfelt.

Aside from the rigid austerity measures cutting arts funding, I blame schooling, and the stiff, unimaginative, curriculum that restricts teachers from engaging students in creative practice. The children that were told they would get nowhere unless they achieved straight A’s in English, Science, and Maths, have been indoctrinated into believing there is no room for creativity, and that ultimately, creativity does not pay. 

But ask yourself this: imagine a world without art. The reality of it is unthinkable, as without art there is no self-expression. How would you express yourself? In a time of social disunity and disharmony, perhaps we need the arts as a medium now more than ever.

In an ideal world all artistic practice would be void of class but unfortunately this is not the case, and never really has been. 

[Serena Ruberto]

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