Sending solidarity and sympathy to anyone who has fallen foul of the 2022 Arts Funding Massacre. But there’s a lesson and a warning here too. We’ve had a government that has been nakedly hostile to the Arts in most of its guises throughout twelve years in power. During that time, the industry has had ample time to relearn the twin arts of speaking truth to power and hitting the right notes when blowing its own trumpet.
However, we now seem to exist in an environment in which effective, unvarnished championing and advocacy of the arts that truly illuminates their importance to society and human existence, is only really done in the straitjacketed fashion that will be secure the funding. This isn’t a slight on the Arts Council who, faced with an impossible task, have at least secured wins for regional institutions and increased the diversity of their récipients. In fact in some ways the arts have suffered a form of gaslighting in the suggestion that the funding reallocation is fully without merit and that ACE is solely responsible for its pitfalls.
But their decisions will have been made that bit easier by major institutions’ failure to examine and effectively communicate the real, tangible impact of their art, and demand its recognition, languishing too much in cosy echo chambers instead.
The result? Decimation of budgets. It gives me no pleasure to witness, but its an inevitable consequence of a mindset in which tradition and a kind of establishmentarianism are seen as adequate substitutes for relentless, precise, meticulously planned and effectively communicated demonstrations of the local, regional, national and international importance of our great arts institutions.
The cuts are also an attack on London – pre-meditated by Nadine Dorries’ brutal directive against the capital- and a damning indictment of the complacency of certain embubbled London institutions and the city’s authorities (the GLA and the Mayor’s office) towards the city’s arts scene.
Oppose the cuts they might, but by failing to do their part to effectively communicate the importance of the arts to the city’s ecosystem, London’s leaders have taken for granted – much as they have done for the city’s night time economy to its great detriment- that the nation’s capital has untouchable status as its arts capital too, and in doing so have ushered in an exodus that will have far-reaching consequences.
The comms teams need to step up. The question is this. Is the communications skillset at the heart of these organisations fit to help them survive the current conditions? No more poodles, channel the inner Rottweiler. Can these departments communicate the value and importance of culture?