It is a sad but accepted fact that in tough times, culture is the first aspect of society to be hacked away at in some desperate attempt to get the economy chugging along again. There have been stories across the country of closing libraries, galleries, theatres; every aspect of cultural experience imaginable has been brutally forced under the knife.
It has always occurred to me that this way of thinking is a very strange kind of logic. I’m not advocating an increase in government funding but to cut it is clearly not making the dents in the economy needed to pull the country out of a crippling recession. After all, government spending on the arts is currently only 0.5% of its overall budget. Of course not everyone goes for it, but the arts can be an excellent way to keep your chin up in hard times, and it’s cheaper. A day in an art gallery is pennies compared to the extortionate price for only a couple of hours in the cinema.
Art in all its forms is an excellent means of escape, not only for those who enjoy it but also to those who create it. But unfortunately these portals to forgetting the overwhelmingly depressing world we are living in are being gradually ripped away by cuts in every aspect of culture.
It is not only the art that currently exists that is been neglected but also the opportunity for a new wave of young creative talents to produce it. I am a student at Lancaster University and over the course of this year we have been witness to disastrous dismantling of both the art and music courses.
The music courses have been dragging themselves through difficulties for a while now due to cuts to the department, with a staff of only 7 and a lack of resources to teach all years, causing the quality of the course to be questionable at best. Now the whole degree scheme is being ‘taught out’ so the first years that started university this year will be the last to go through at Lancaster, with a very uncertain standard of teaching to expect in their final years.
Third year art students have been forced to organise fundraising events (while still busy with course work) because the department does not have the money to hold their final year degree show. This is adding unneeded stress to the struggling students and overwhelming outrage as these are the kinds of costs that should be covered by that £3,000 they have been paying every year.
So where is the £3,000-9,000 that these poor arts students pay for their course going? Well, not too surprisingly, it is being pumped into the dominating Lancaster University Management School, whose buildings are unnecessarily sleek and whose gluttony absorbs all resources in sight. Who needs arts when you can have business?
These examples from my university are only part of a worrying trend that embodies how the country regards and treats the arts. Of course you can still go to a top arts college or university or enjoy a show or gallery, but the pleasure will be at a high price. It is not just the arts themselves that are being put into a stranglehold, but the public access to them. Like academia itself the arts are gradually becoming an enjoyment solely for the wealthy when they should be accessible to everyone.
(This article can also be found on Intuition Online http://intuition-online.co.uk/ )