Thursday, 31 March 2011

If we’re to have bread and circuses – we’ll need some acrobats!

Yesterday two things struck me – as they do sometimes.

The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and the Derby and Exeter theatres were among the 206 theatre companies, galleries and arts venues who learned yesterday their government grants would dry up in 2012.

Others had their budgets significantly reduced, with the critically acclaimed Almeida Theatre Company in Islington, north London seeing their grant cut from £1 million this year to £700,000 in 2015 – a real terms drop of 39 per cent.

This was amongst announcements about funding from the Arts Council as part of an overall reduction (to £957 million) of 15% in grants to nationally-funded bodies.

At the same time I read this:

“Health experts are trying to see a shift in public eating habits which could add to improved general health. ASK is a unique Greater Manchester initiative to reduce the amount of salt added to food.

“Participating businesses display the ASK logo in their windows and use cards on tables to demonstrate their support. Most food cafes and restaurants already season their food adequately. For customers, reaching for salt has become a habit rather than it being a necessity.”

Now leaving aside the fact that salt does not cause hypertension (it is a risk factor for people who already have hypertension), this encapsulates the priorities of government to me. There may be a case for reducing funding of pleasure, animation and fun in a time of austerity but I am deeply offended when, at the same time as theatres close, art galleries reduce their hours and dance troops fold, we are spending money on scaring people about health risks.

On the back of other attacks on our simple pleasures – fags, booze, red meat, bacon – this speaks to me of a society obsessed with survival at the expense of pleasure. A place where the little tin gods of the medical profession suck up ever larger sums of other peoples’ cash to berate us with their “healthy living” obsessions.

All this while festivals go unfunded, arts groups fold and films aren’t made. A dour, dreary place filled with safety lectures, health concerns and a dread fear of anything that might seem a little untidy.

So here’s a little suggestion – let’s take all the cash we spend on nannying fussbucketry and spend it on having some fun! On plays, paintings, music, country walks, food festivals, markets – on animation and excitement. Surely that would do more to for mental health, for happiness and for health that all these dreary lectures from doctors and their pals.

After all, if we’re to have bread and circuses – we’ll need some acrobats!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is something to do with morality in this too, to do with cutting funding on matters that feed the soul while increasing funding on matters that only serve to benefit the idea of physical material existence, at the expense of the soul. What good is a year longer in the oldest of age if it's a miserable existence void of life's pleasures leading up to it and no matter how little salt, booze, fags, red meat or bacon one took in all those years, to still be fraught with the physical limitations of old age regardless. It makes no sense unless it's a culture void in the value of the spirit and hard-hearted enough to think only the material matter, which all turns to dust, counts more. It is a world without a soul and a heartless cold existence, once that is all that counts.