David Lister: The minister's gone native, but the cuts will still hurt

The Week In Arts

Share
Related Topics

Sooner or later every Culture Secretary goes native.

Those First Nights, private views and celebrity hobnobbings can turn the iciest politician into an honorary member of the arts lobby. That lobby must be praying that Jeremy Hunt has indeed gone native, as he completes his negotiations with the Treasury over the extent of the coming cuts.

Chatting to Mr Hunt in his office at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport this week, I saw some signs of this. It's not just the two Mark Wallinger canvases on his wall (to the irritation of the artist, apparently). It's more the passion with which he enthused about the young audiences flocking to see contemporary art, and his delight in some of the more radical work he saw at the Edinburgh Festival. Of course, it might be of even more use to the arts if the Chancellor, George Osborne, goes native. Well, he has a Grayson Perry on his wall, so there's some hope.

It's also true that Mr Hunt is putting the worst of the cuts on his own department. The DCMS is being cut by an astonishing 50 per cent. The day I was there it was like a ghost town as most of the civil servants were on an away-day to work out how they were going to cope with this. The minister is trying to ensure that the "front line", as he calls it, suffers less than his department, various quangos and, I suspect, the Arts Council. But the omens are not great. A 40 per cent figure is still being talked about. Mr Hunt will try to sugar the pill by encouraging all arts institutions to turn more to philanthropy and endowments (though his idea of 100-year endowment plans may leave arts institutions that are worrying about how to get through next month a little bemused).

Still, he is a thoughtful man, determined to find some ways of helping the arts in the face of the worst cuts most institutions will have ever seen. He will give the sector for the first time a four-year settlement with more time to absorb the pain, possibly with a gentler lead-in and the worst of the cuts to come later. He will also definitely not tell the national museums and galleries to start charging for admission again.

He is convinced by the argument that the arts do boost the economy, though equally unconvinced by the argument that we are talking about a small amount of money here in global terms, so why cut? Too many departments are using the "small amount of money" argument. The Treasury no longer has time for it.

Put that alongside the fact that departments such as Education and Defence can expect to get less than the maximum cut, and the outlook for the arts is financially bleak. Mr Hunt may have gone native to some degree, but the Treasury looks more and more unlikely to give the arts special treatment. What Mr Hunt does think, as do I, is that this must now be a time for a major rethink of the way the arts are funded and run. There will be a need for a lot of fundraisers. It's the one area of the jobs market likely to expand.

Complaints from some older actresses...

Much has been made in recent weeks of complaints that older actresses fail to find roles, particularly on television. Equity, the actors' union, has launched a petition calling on broadcasters to put more women in TV dramas. More than 8,000 people have signed the petition, with performers including Juliet Stevenson and Lesley Manville speaking out on the subject.

But now two other older actresses, Felicity Kendal and Patsy Kensit, have complained about the complainers. Ms Kensit, 42, says that TV is in fact "kinder to women" of her age, adding that she has been working solidly for six years. Ms Kendal, 63, told The Stage newspaper that while the classics feature mostly men, "we are getting many more series and many more plays about women running businesses, because that is what our society is like. Women are playing a stronger role in society and that is being mirror-imaged in the work we do."

This is very confusing. Which older actresses are we to believe? Equity, rather than launching petitions, should research the number of parts in TV dramas given to actresses over the age of 40 across a year's broadcasting and how this compares with, say, 10 years ago. Then we'd know which alliance of older actresses is right.

...and one older comedienne

Also unhappy is the wonderful comedienne Victoria Wood. She has complained this week about BBC executives not treating her or her work with the respect they deserve. She is perplexed that they screened her Christmas special last year on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, and the person who made this decision had never even met her. She said this week she feels "not trusted and not valued".

One's instinct is, of course, to side with the brilliant Victoria Wood against some faceless BBC bureaucrat. But actually I'm with the Beeb on this one. Ms Wood's job is to deliver her show. It's then up to BBC schedulers to schedule. And does the scheduler really need to meet the talent? Surely the show should be judged on its merits, not on any personal relationship between a BBC exec and the show's creator. Besides, Christmas Eve isn't a bad slot, and the show did get 7.5 million viewers. A case of performer paranoia, I suspect.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Punks show off the Doctor Marten boots as they gather in Blackpool for the annual Rebellion Punk Rock Festival  

Recalling my act of punk rebellion at school shows how different attitudes are today

Rosie Millard
A hormone released when someone is under stress or pressure has been found in breast milk  

Shaming women for being unable to breastfeed is wrong, and it needs to stop

Siobhan Freegard
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada