Perhaps mindful of some of the current UK government’s attitude towards the arts and creative disciplines, the Arts Council of England, the country’s top creative and arts funding body, has just launched a new magazine called Create, “a new journal that aims to stimulate discussion about the true value of art and culture to our society” – though one suspects that in this context, they’re talking about monetary value. The first issue is available to read in full here.
Create bears the subtitle “A journal of perspectives on the value of art and culture” – not an especially strong indicator of confidence in its convictions. Then on page 2 we have a full-page ad stating: “We can’t afford not to fund the arts.” Then we have Peter Bazalgette, Arts Council chair, asking in his Foreword: “Why should there be public funding for arts and culture? This is a question perhaps only asked by those wild-eyed folk who don’t like taxes in any form. A more common question in today’s climate is, can we afford such support?”
This kind of anxiety seems especially curious since other government bodies are busily emphasizing the £70 billion ($120 billion) in exports generated by the UK’s creative industries. A sum unlikely to exceed the value destroyed by the UK financial services sector, whose mismanagement and lax oversight led to the UK’s current climate of austerity in the first place. Culture and literature has shown the power to bond societies together, motivate entire nations, and endure over thousands of years. Governments and banks, meanwhile, have exhibited great competence at global value destruction, and social and economic devastation. Maybe the question should be: Can we afford to tolerate the governments and banks?