Jeremy Corbyn, frontrunner for the Labour leadership, unveiled his vision for the arts in Hackney yesterday should he become leader.
Alongside Frank Cottrell Boyce, mastermind of the Olympic opening ceremony and actress Julia Hesmondhalgh, Corbyn invoked a country ‘in which people are happier, more fulfilled and secure in their work as well as home.’
Cottrell Boyce writing in the introduction to Corbyn’s vision for the arts said: “Britain enjoys an influence around the world far in excess of its economic or military muscle, thanks mainly to the sheer exuberance and diversity of its cultural life.”
According to Corbyn, Britain’s culture is under threat from the current government, where art policy has manifested itself in a ‘devastating’ £82million in cuts to the arts council budget over the last five years and the closure of the great majority of currently funded arts organisations.
To protect the cultural industry in Britain, Corbyn intends to create a Cabinet Committee for the arts and creative industries, bringing together ministers from different departments, to achieve his pledges which include:
- More investment in the arts generally (“to rebuild the foundations of artistic enterprise in our country that are being laid waste to by the current government”)
- Public subsidies to be provided to the educators, performers, and local initiatives.
- The support of outreach programmes designed to involved young people following the success of programmes such as those run by The Young Vic and the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester.
- To protect the BBC from further cuts.
In relation to his pledge to protect the BBC, Corbyn said: “I firmly believe in the principle of public service broadcast and am fearful of following the path tread in the United States, where PBS has been hollowed out, unable to deliver the breadth of content to compete with the private broadcasters, and where Fox News has as a result been effectively allowed to dominate and set the news agenda.”
He added: “When we return to power we must fully fund public service broadcasting in all its forms, recognising the crucial role the BBC has played in establishing and supporting world class domestic arts, drama, and entertainment.”
As well outlining his own vision for the arts, Corbyn’s announcement included a scathing look at what the current and last government has done in relation to Britain’s cultural industries. He said: “Under the guise of a politically motivated austerity programme, this government has savaged arts funding with projects increasingly required to justify their artistic and social contributions in the narrow, ruthlessly instrumentalist approach of the Thatcher governments.”
Corbyn said that current Treasury measurements, which attempt to calculate the value of visiting art galleries, are: “A dangerous retreat into a callous commercialisation of every sphere of our lives.” He continued: “These cuts have taken place while demand for the services funded by the Department of Culture Media and Sport continues to rise. The UK now invests a smaller percentage of its GDP in arts and culture than the EU average and less than European competitors like France and Germany.”