Monday, 7 January 2013

Michael Dugher is right - arts funding is elitist


Barnsley MP, Michael Dugher has focused our attention on the plight of the Grimethrope Colliery Band - one of the superstars of the brass band world:

Labour MP Michael Dugher said it was “snobbery” that the British Federation of Brass Bands, which supports bands such as Grimethorpe, got just £23,000 last year while the Royal Opera House in London got more than £26million and the English National Ballet was handed more than £6million.

Dugher is right - traditional English arts are a poor relation next to elite international arts. Even when we look at arts funding in the north, we see that it is still skewed towards those same dominating areas: classical music, opera, ballet and theatre.

The problem is that these traditions - and if Dugher thinks brass bands are hard done by take a peek at Morris dancing - are disliked by the arts establishment. In their song 'Roots', Show of Hands make this point:
And a minister said his vision of hell
Is three folk singers in a pub near Wells
Well, I've got a vision of urban sprawl
There's pubs where no-one ever sings at all

Folk music and other arts traditions are disdained by the arts elite. Funding goes to grand and exclusive establishments that make no mark on most of the population. Bands are to be tucked away out of sight brought out only when we want some sort of Northern 'authenticity' - in Bradford we built a new City Centre park. And, in a City that's home to two of the world's best brass bands, we didn't include a bandstand.

While millionaire actors and opera singers strut the subsidised stages of London, the traditional arts of England - choirs, brass bands, dance troupe, folk music - live a hand-to-mouth existence. Arts funding is overwhelmingly spent in London and directed to the preferences and interests of an arts elite rather than the mass of the population.

Michael Dugher is right - arts funding is elitist.



Shades said...

The Pub was in Wells not Wales, but otherwise spot on.

Much as I love music and theatre, I don't think it should be propped up by the money tree.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cooke, I read your blog and am constantly amazed by your level-headed common sense, and your refusal to denounce anyone of a different political persuasion whenever they say something (I recall a TV interview with Anthony Wedgewood Benn and Norman Tebbit, where Mr Tebbit agreed with Mr Benn, to see Mr Benn almost immediately change his views – astounding!).

I look at you, and then at your colleagues in Wastemonster, and cannot understand how you can be of the same political party. How can you tolerate your blatantly socialistic, control-freak leadership? What can you do to bring them back to the core values that has made the Conservatives Britain’s longest-serving, most successful political party?

Radical Rodent

Simon Cooke said...

@shades - error corrected!

And for Radical Rodent - thanks for the kind words. If I walk away - decamp to the "Official Grumpy Old Bloke Party" (aka UKIP) - then they have won haven't they?

All I can do is keep saying these things - keep challenging.

Anonymous said...

The pub wasn't in Wales, what the song refers to is the comments by Kim Howells, who was a Welsh Labour MP. He said his idea of hell was Somerset folk singers. Even though he said this it's probably s little unfair to suggest that he was an elitist, being a very common Valleys boy and not part of the arts establishment in the way that the London metropolitan elite are.