Whether you approach it economically, socially, psychologically, culturally…the arts matter. I can talk til I’m blue in the face about all these aspects but let’s start economically since that’s the only thing that matters to this government.
It’s estimated that the arts brings in £10billion a year. Just think how many jobs are wrapped up in arts – everyone who works in a theatre, cinema, concert venue. The many people who work in film and television. Actors, musicians, sound engineers, lighting engineers, directors, road managers, tour managers, agents, drivers. The export and brand value of Britain around the world is massively increased by our arts. When an event is on in town centres people come in and spend money in pubs, restaurants and shops. The vast majority of artists don’t get public money either, it’s not as if we’re all leeching off the government! Most of us are sole traders who pay taxes. So economically it works.
Then we come to what the arts are really all about. You know the way people with dementia transform before my very eyes because of music in to people who smile, sing and remember who they are. You know the way a little child’s face lights up when they see an instrument being played. You know the way I walked past a beer garden yesterday and a table of people were singing along to the song that was playing on the stereo. You know the way songs transport you back to a place in time because you remember the song being played there. You know the way song lyrics touch a nerve and make you cry. You know the way the music in a pub or club when you’re a bit pissed makes you dance. You know the way people smile, cry, laugh or just about any other emotion because of ART.
We need the arts. Without it we’re nothing. Just people existing to work and then die. You might be an enormous music, film, art or theatre fan. You might not be. But however you measure it the arts matter.
I’m not a musician begging to be given shed loads of money or major entitlements just because I’m an artist. I work bloody hard, I always have done and I pay taxes. Prior to the pandemic I had one arts council grant ever and everything else I do is just going about my work and being paid by whoever wants to pay me. I’ve adapted during this time to being an online musician best I can, I haven’t just sat back and waited to be saved. But I will not tolerate being told in an offhand way that we should just retrain and get other jobs because the industry is insignificant, economically unviable and not worth saving because it is incredibly significant, economically crucial to the country and for all of us, well worth saving.