Sunday, May 27, 2007

Funding the Arts, Without the Box-Ticking

Alongside his position at home as England's most popular composer, Edward Elgar has in recent decades been critically re-evaluated, and is now rightly treated as being amongst the first rank internationally.

Yet, as the Telegraph reports today, the Arts Council is giving no money towards the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

This is not so surprising. Central public funding of the arts is now firmly tied to social policy targets, and to the promotion of a politically-based social agenda. That, and of course a cultural disdain for any artist too easily identified with the nation's sense of itself.

However, it is no longer enough to simply turn to private corporate sources as an alternative.

Many companies are now just as eager to tick boxes in an attempt to appear 'progressive' as any government quango.

A good example of what happens as a result of this can be seen in the excellent new English Music Festival's struggle to keep going; organisers found that companies were reluctant to support an event which they considered did not chime adequately with their politically and socially 'relevant' image-building.

The answer lies in by-passing both of these sources, and cultivating instead a culture of individual giving not tied to the needs of box-ticking.

The New Culture Forum will return to this vital issue in the future.

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