Funding cuts: What would our world look like without art?

Cancel all your plans. The arts are no longer. All jobs in entertainment are, as of now, cut.

Going to see a gig? A play? Going clubbing? No you’re not. All the actors, musicians and DJs are too busy job hunting for something that actually keeps them alive.

Funding cuts

Fancy winding down after work with your favourite TV show? Well, not only are all TV broadcasts now music and graphic free, they are, of course, strictly factual. Think Jon Snow in a grey suit, face forward in front of a plain white background, reading the day’s events in a drawling monotone.

But ah! Not a suit, because that is a tenet of fashion and of course, fashion is art and therefore no longer exists. Mr Snow is wearing a grey all-in-one body stocking. Practical and boring.

And maybe he isn’t even Jon Snow, because Jon Snow is a celebrity and that might titillate us. The newsreader is an unknown man. A tool. A machine.

Take down all the pictures on your walls, and while you’re at it, tear down the statues in your city centres and cover up the architecture too. Uproot the flower gardens and start burning books. Planning on taking a mini-break? Your plane tickets are revoked. All flights are now strictly business. Going out for dinner? Sorry, all the restaurants are closed and all food shall henceforth be administered through tubes.

What is art?

How far do we take the definition of ‘art’? The furniture in your living room, the colour of your jumper, the adverts you absent-mindedly consume on the tube — that’s all art. The food you eat, the coffee you drink, the trips you take, the sport you follow — that’s entertainment. Watching the news, reading the paper, listening to the radio — the people making that possible all hold a Bachelor of Arts. And the people that made it possible for those people to get their qualifications are doctors of Music, of Journalism, Media, Design, who read and debate and teach in universities worldwide.

And those people who write and play the songs you love, right down to the jingles on your favourite radio station or the theme tunes to your favourite TV shows: they’ve spent years — decades — of their life honing their skills so that we can have just the tiniest release from the dull and banal existence that we would all otherwise have if it weren’t for artists.

The imminent closing of IdeasTap — an organisation that has launched my own career in several ways — links to another issue about which I feel strongly, and that’s fair pay for artists. We’re forced work for free or for pitiful wages so often because we’re seen as decorative, be that audibly or visually. It all comes down to the pitiful value that we assign to the arts, in a neoliberalist society that is perfectly happy to pretend that money isn’t literally being pissed down the drain in the name of capitalism.

I know that financial resources are limited and I am not for one minute saying that we should fund the arts at the expense of say, medicine. But when you consider that MPs like Malcolm Rifkind, and big businesses and banks like HSBC are whacking up huge amounts of ‘lost’ unpaid tax through the use of loopholes, or just outright fraud, £83 million of arts funding cuts doesn’t really seem so necessary.

It’s easy for the powers that be (that is, not just the government but also Big Business) to convince us that we don’t really need our pleasures or our downtime, if it furthers their own thirst for profit. And we begin to reason it out:

“Well, I suppose I don’t really need music as much as I need medical care.”

But it’s not that simple. “Attack the arts!” they cry. “Because then you’ll conveniently forget to attack us,” they mutter under their breath.

In a world that sees the arts as frivolous and expendable, IdeasTap is one of very few beacons of hope in its support for emerging creatives struggling to be taken seriously — to be respected and to earn a decent wage. I strongly urge everyone who reads this to back the continuation of IdeasTap at Save IdeasTap by signing the petition or by tweeting using the hashtag #LoveIdeasTap. You can also support campaigns like #WorkNotPlayMU by the Musicians’ Union, for the increased awareness and support for the value of art and the need for its existence — not just for artists, but for all of us.