On my way home today I saw the front page of the odious Evening Standard. Unusually, it saved the Boris Johnson love-in for the middle pages. On the front were the theatre actors who had won awards last night. I gather a fair few have been lambasting the Government for the Arts Council funding cuts.
I have a lot of sympathy. Whilst people like me struggle to find money for the basic casework needs of our constituents, you might think I would take excpetion to spending on "luxury" goods like theatre and arts. But really, if things are to get better for my constituents in East Finchley, Arts funding is important.
As Danny Boyle said, we don't make cars anymore (we do need an industrial policy, but that's for another blog entry) and the future growth and prosperity for the country will have to be on Britain as a great place to live. An important part of why that's true is our phenomenal cultural heritage. Our history and culture is world renown, and it does draw people here to invest, to set up companies and employ people here. The future jobs of East Finchleyans will depend to some extent on London keeping and enhancing that artistic and cultural "vibe" we have and makes us so attractive abroad.
As we have seen with the Phoenix cinema, East Finchley Open and the Cherry Tree Woods festival, Arts and Culture are very much part of the fabric of the community, and I know that all over the ward we value it. We don't do much culture here in Barnet, but one place we do is East Finchley.
Going back to the original question, why do I think Arts funding is still important when there are other, more basic and important needs; I say there are a number of things. Firstly, the Arts funding is £450 million (Being cut to £350 million). A drop in the ocean of the £700 Billion national budget. Just like international development aid, cutting it does nothing to reduce the deficit, and probably does more harm in the process.
Secondly, that money is an investment. Many American film companies were re-locating bacuse of the generousity and success of our system. Cutting the funding will jeopardise our worl leading position, and compromise future jobs. There are many East Finchleyans who work in the Arts, and cuts there are making the ward directly worse off.
Thirdly, where there are those in need of financial assistance for thier problems, this funding is tiny, and simply will not cover even the most desperate of needs. We would lose all that we gain for money that won't fix the full problem.
Fourthly, Britain is doing well abroad. Our TV is internationally recognized for it's quality. Our Actors are all over films and TV around the world. They are helping to change the image of the country, and these cuts might diminish the "soft power" of Britain's international media. Soft power is increasingly recognised as important in diplomacy, and there is really nothing for good press sometimes!
So in short, Arts funding is very important to the economy, our culture, and our image abroad. All these things help East Finchley. We should be very proud of our Culture sector, and I hope the Government are doing everything they can to mitigate against their cuts.