I am lucky to attend a school - Bedales - which prides itself on a wonderful theatre and thriving drama department. As a student of theatre I believe that it’s fundamental to any school’s livelihood that they invest in their drama department, and I hope to pursue a career in the arts. But with the rate that arts funding is being cut, there may not be a field left for me to enter.
I would implore the newly appointed culture secretary, John Wittingdale (former chair of the DCMS – a company which plans to cut arts funding by 5 per cent and the British Film Institute by 10 per cent in 2015-16), to consider how many artists depend on funding, and realise that this where, for many, the heart of our country lies.
I can’t fathom a world without theatre in schools but it is looking quite possible now. That is a terrible tragedy – not only will teachers lose their income and their students, but the new generation of creators will be wiped out. Not every actor is brave enough to audition for a play and I doubt many directors knew that was to be their vocation at a young age. I may never have discovered a passion for theatre without having it embedded in the curriculum.
With the stigma attached to studying theatre - seen as a 'soft subject' - it is not a surprise that our new government is considering its annihilation. But it was a shock to me that at the National Student Drama Festival there were artists open to the abolition of drama in schools.
Paul Roseby, the chief executive at the National Youth Theatre, claimed drama at GCSE is ‘irrelevant’, yet even the idea of removing a subject so integral to many student’s school careers seems absolutely absurd to me. You don’t need to have a devotion to the arts to enjoy performing, directing, writing, or teaching. If it is something which gives joy to those behind the scenes, on the stage and in the audience, why is it being cut so harshly? I ask this question of artists, students and the government alike. This is not something which should be pushed to the side.
Yes, the arts have been resilient in the face of adversity. The Government's grant to Arts Council England has dropped by 33 per cent since 2010, but I shouldn’t have to be entering a world where artists that are defending themselves against the government.
Don’t the Conservatives realise that the arts sector has an annual turnover of £12.8bn and directly makes up 0.4 per cent of the UK's GDP? There should be more attention focusing on the cultivation of this industry rather than the crushing of it. It is absurd that an Arts Council report in 2013 showed that the arts get less than 0.1 per cent of public spending but deliver four times that in gross domestic product.
We need a creatively motivated education system in which OFSTED cannot give an ‘outstanding’ affirmation to a school without having arts-based subjects at the core. Every student should be entitled to a creative education and that was one of the strongest points in Labour’s education policy. Miliband stated that ‘if you believe in social justice, if you believe in a more equal society, the access to the arts and culture is not an optional extra, it is essential - not simply because of the worlds it opens up, but because of the wider impact it has.’ The Conservative government have to recognise that it is their opponent’s more enlightened view of the arts and education which will allow this country and its generation of young artists to thrive.
Eve Allin is hoping for AS Level success in the 2015 exams at Bedales School, Hampshire, and was awarded the prestigious Sunday Times Harold Hobson Student Drama Critic Award for her reviews published in the National Student Drama Festival magazine, Noises Off. Forerunners of the award include Ian Shuttleworth, joint senior theatre critic for the Financial TimesReuse content