The Comprehensive Spending Review on 26 June dealt out yet another set of severe cuts to the arts. At a time when schools, hospitals and the police are also being cut, who cares about the arts?
The Conservative Secretary of State for Culture, Maria Miller, has publicly stated that the arts have to justify themselves economically. Actually, they can quite easily. Recent figures show that for every £1 invested in arts and culture, up to £6 is generated for the local economy. The cultural economy creates 694,700 jobs across England. 6910 cultural businesses contribute £28billion each year to the UK economy. It is also beyond doubt that publicly funded arts and culture feed the commercial sector in a big way - just look at the enormous success of War Horse.
So, funding the arts actually increases the amount of money available for other areas of public spending. But the fact that the arts can justify themselves economically doesn't mean that they should have to.
This Government of philistines seems to be suggesting that the only value art and culture has to offer society is to create wealth. But even cavemen recognised the non-economic value of art when they painstakingly adorned the walls of their caves with pictures that told elaborate stories. Society has always known the therapeutic value of arts and culture; the Ancient Greeks installed amphitheatres in their hospitals because they realised that their patients' health improved dramatically with access to culture.
Today, the medical profession recognises the untold benefits of music for Alzheimer patients who have forgotten their own names but can still sing along to songs they remember from childhood. And likewise, the hugely beneficial effect that music and theatre can have on conditions such as autism. If you still have doubts about the power of the arts and in particular music to make a difference, a casual glance at the Nordoff Robbins website www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk should be enough to convince anyone of how music therapy can transform lives.
And what about our day to day quality of life? Who wants to live in a country without edgy ground-breaking music, theatre, television programmes and books? If Maria Miller had her way, the only arts and culture we would ever experience would be the stuff that can establish upfront that it has solid economic foundations and will wash its own face - what a boring world that would be. Have we really got to the point in this country where we only care about things that create wealth? Are we really willing to dumb-down arts and culture in the UK in order to make tiny steps towards rebalancing the economy? Remember that the arts budget is minute compared to most others - so huge cuts in our sector have very little effect on the UK's overall spend.
Arts cuts have already decimated much of the groundbreaking new work that was going on in the world of culture. If you take a look at Lost Arts (www.lost-arts.org), which is our catalogue of the effect that the cuts have already had, it's a pretty depressing read. This Government, it seems, is in danger of knowing the value of everything but the importance of nothing.