Saturday, June 24, 2006

Cultural exports booming

One of those articles asking, 'Why don't we feel better about this?' This being 'cultural products'. The journalist, Richard Morrison, mentions some recent successes: Ken Loach winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes with The Wind that Shakes the Barley; the design of a shop in New York by Thomas Heatherwick (he of The B of the Bang); Alan Bennett’s The History Boys grabbing six Tony Awards and drawing full houses all year; the London Symphony Orchestra bringing the St Petersburg house down with two Shostakovich symphonies. In addition,

According to Unesco, we export £6 billion of cultural products each year, mostly thanks to music and theatre.
Of course, there's a 'but'. And, of course, it's a failure of government.
This Government has not been as stingy towards the arts as some of its predecessors, though its per capita cultural spending is still only a half of Germany’s and less than a third of France’s.
Authority's sins don't end there. The thrust of the National Curriculum towards basic skills has maintained the 'apartheid' in this country whereby it is only a 'middle-class minority' that takes advantage of its cultural life. In addition, the looming Olympic Games threaten to divert funding away from the Arts towards sport.

I have always thought that one of the strengths of the UK, as of the US, is that culturally it not all top down. It is not just a matter of decisions made by quangos redirecting taxes towards worthy projects. Anglo-Saxon pop music is, to my limited knowledge, still largely a matter of what the 'street' decides. Without wishing government money away, I would have thought the aim is not to increase it, nor to worry too much about who attends the gala occasions, but to allow talent to rise and flourish. The figure quoted above for cultural exports would seem to indicate that this is happening.

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