Arts subsidy: Down with the capital’s cultural monopoly

Most people live outside London. But most of the art cash is spent in London. Why?

Share

A new report says that there is a huge difference between what is spent on the arts in London, and on arts throughout the rest of the country. Arts organisations in the capital receive around £70 of Government funding per head, three times the amount of those elsewhere. An “imbalance” says the chairman of the Arts Council of England, Sir Peter Bazalgette. A grotesque discrepancy, I would say.

There were two great moments for regional arts. One was the heyday of the Victorian philanthropist, when captains of industry commissioned temples of culture where they themselves lived and worked. Great galleries were built across the industrial North, and crammed with masterpieces for the benefit of the people. Many still bear the names of their founders. The second, in my view, was in the 1970s, when a notion that culture should be properly devolved gave rise to new theatres and arts centres across the country.

The picture, now, is sadly diminished. Sure, the wonderful galleries across the North – in Manchester, Liverpool, Durham, Newcastle and Hull – are still there, with their treasure troves of beauty and wonder. The magnificent theatres are there, too. But too often the theatres are dark, or given over to soap stars in panto, while the galleries, limping along on local funding, are open in a sort of desultory, half-hearted manner. The National Gallery and Tate make an effort, by lending key works to regional collections or (in the case of Tate) farming out the Turner Prize. The National Theatre does go on tour. But this is simply lip service. In the main, everything, culturally, points to London. This is where great exhibitions are displayed, important plays staged, operas sung.

“Oh, but these are all streamed online, so everyone can see them,” they say. What? Have you ever had that glorious tingle provoked by the rise of a red curtain, watching a play on a computer? Yes, people could see the sell-out Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery on television, but it simply did not compare to the experience of standing before the masterpieces.  Nor do the much vaunted broadcasts of opera or theatre from the South Bank or Covent Garden. Are they a valid substitute? Not really. You need to hear the scrape of the bows on violins, see the spittle flying out of the mouths of the actors. We have the venues outside London. Take the shows there, so that people whose taxes have  paid for them can see them.

There is simply no way around it. Most people in this country live outside of London. And most arts cash is spent inside London. It is unfair. And it renders it inaccessible. So what if the British Museum’s exhibition was free for children? My sister, living in Worcester, would have had to spend at least £100 on fares and tickets to bring her two children to see it. On a day trip. Stay overnight, and you are looking at a £300 bill.

The Arts Council must do better. Open up the regional galleries. Fund regional theatres. Insist on proper tours of exhibitions, plays, and operas. Our arts may well be world famous, but they are not shared, at all, between the people who pay for them.

React Now

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

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Lead IOs Andriod Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Applic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Voices in Danger: The innocent journalist kidnapped by Russian separatists for 'spying'

Anne Mortensen
A Bengal tiger captured by a camera trap in Nepal  

Save the tiger: The success of the Bengal tiger in Nepal shows you can make a difference

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried