Friday, 29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding: Arts Program Funding Gone Right

Please, dear reader, do not be angry about the £20 million on security this wedding will cost: the royals bring in (reputedly) hundreds of millions every year in tourist revenue, plus the wedding is supposed to generate £50 million in revenue for the country today alone.

I think of the Royals as a profitable arts program where we get double back what we put in. It's terrific and sort of makes sense of the whole crazy circus surrounding two wealthy twenty-somethings getting hitched.

We all play this game of "let's pretend" with the Royals, like they are somehow ordained by God to rule but don't because of (technically two) revolutions and a gradual marginalization by parliamentary manoeuvring.

They put on the gowns, we say "God save you" and everyone is satisfied. It is a piece of ceremonial performance art, but it is one that turns a profit for everyone involved, so why question it?

If only the coalition government had the same attitude to the Arts Council England, whose funding it cut by 29.6% for the next four years - despite it providing a similar level of profitability to the Royals (who, to be fair, also faced cuts).

Arts are easy to cut, but it makes no sense to cut something that gives you back more than you put in. That is cutting your profits, damaging a successful system: it's just madness. Just imagine if we didn't say "God save you" to those nice people from Windsor: the whole bloody thing would be in ruins, we'd lose millions.

Well, same with the Art Council England funding debacle. It's madness. Arts are the lifeblood of culture and without them we are poorer - literally and figuratively.

I'll finish with the famous Churchill story, on the off chance you haven't seen it before.

"During the Second World War, Winston Churchill's finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill's response: "Then what are we fighting for?"" (

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