With the government pledging to rescue the ‘crown jewels’, the cultural institutions that survive will be part of a hollowed-out infrastructure that is ill-fitted to deliver the social role of the arts in the public realm, says Robert Hewison.
You have been listening to – or have just missed – the UK government’s latest attempt to assure us that ‘we’re here for culture’. It is not clear who ‘we’ are, but the banal rhetoric of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport suggests that they see the arts as a source of economic significance and national pride. Above all, they want us to know that its Cultural Recovery Fund is worth £1.57 billion.
The Office for National Statistics confirms that the arts and entertainment sector has been the worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis. 25 percent of businesses are not trading at all; 41 percent have seen their turnover fall by half. Reserves are going or gone. £1.57 billion is a lot of money, but as the DCMS parliamentary committee recently pointed out, it – like the government’s Cultural Renewal Task Force, which is supposed to decide when it is safe to go out to play again – has come ‘too late for many’ in the arts.
It also betrays the DCMS’s ignorance of the way the cultural economy works. According to its Secretary State, Oliver Dowden, the fund is primarily to protect the ‘crown jewels – the things that really define us as a nation.’ More plausibly, they define what the Tories define as culture... Keep reading on ArtReview