"Life is short. Short, and not about anything except what you can touch and what touches you." - Woody Allen.
I googled quotes by Woody Allen, didn't I. You got me. Well, I needed something punchy, and on around page 3 of some website probably called woodyallenquotes.com I saw the above. And anyway, I like Allen, he makes me laugh and his book 'Complete Prose' is a complete work of art. It seems like he's a strange lad, and I wouldn't exactly want to go for a pint with him or anything. But anyway, the quote I nicked - I'm not cheating completely. Just borrowing some inspiration.
The above quote, like all good quotes, could probably be taken a multitude of ways depending on the way your mind works. Out of all the religious, sexual and comedic lines he has pulled in his time, the above sticks out to me. Life is short and it's about finding things that touch you. Mentally, emotionally, physically. And sometimes only gradually.
It was at the age of around 21 that I realised I wanted to be a writer. I was sat with a friend, Lee, and we realised that we had a fantastic connection. We were also drunk, but the connection was as prominent sober as it was exaggerated when intoxicated, so quickly we both figured we should attempt to write together.
We wrote and we laughed and we realised that we didn't need to create anything for anyone else other than ourselves, so we didn't. This wasn't a conscious choice. Hell no. We wanted to be something. We wanted to make people laugh, but it's only now that I realised that the best creation we ever made was the realisation that I needed to be a writer. I needed to say something to somebody. The only thing that left me winded was the fact that it took me to my early 20's to realise that if I wanted, I could write. Imagine if I had someone in my life tell me I could do it before then. Who knows how differently my life could have turned out?
Writing, like any other expressive form is as much about confidence as it is about anything else. To be told you have promise, to be told you're doing alright can be huge. The earlier we can give positive influence to people in the arts, the better. But what if this influence is being stunted? What if this light is being doused?
The ability to do arts, be that performance, writing or producing, should be completely and utterly at the choice of the individual. Your background, your sex or your wealth shouldn't dictate to you your possibilities and dreams in anything - let alone in the expression of art.
Arts Emergency, a charity of which I donate to monthly, is an organisation of volunteers, contacts and thinkers who believe - correctly - that there should be no barriers put in the way of people who want to study or work in art and humanity related subjects. They offer a network of contacts and mentorship to young people between the age of 16-19 to help encourage and aid the development of each young individual involved in the project.
In a sad yet beautiful state of affairs it's come to a point where people that have contacts in art have to group together in order to help others less fortunate from the dwindling ability to network, in some ways like the perfect oxymoron. Yet, whole movement and influence shows exactly what the true meaning of the term 'arts and humanities' is - it's the idea that a non-measurable, benevolent quality to the world appears when you understand the real meaning behind where creativity and action comes from. You don't need to be an artist or a creative to hold compassion for your fellow person, and it certainly doesn't make you any more intelligent to class yourself in the above bracket. But the point is that it also doesn't make you any less intelligent, either. It means no less than Maths or Science or English, yet according to that-there Government and them-there Tories, it does. Cuts, reduced possibilities for teachers and increased tuition fees all mean that emphasis is being taken away from the importance of studying arts. There becomes a concentration on 'employable' subjects, subjects that force you to take a certain direction, to walk a particular way in your life. It seems in our country that some folks are taking the idea of arts and only allowing them to be accessed by those who have the money and own the privilege to be able to pursue a career in the subject. The idea that people of this country should follow a life path that improves the world economically first and compassionately and creatively second misses the point completely. Education improves job chances for sure, but it should also increases quality of life through challenging and thought-provoking ideas. There is nothing more challenging than a book that stimulates you, a film that engages you or a painting you fall in love with. It just seems like there's more emphasis on understanding a business or understanding just how the world works than putting thought to how creativity sparks imagination in new and different ways of thinking. To understanding how we as people work.
The idea, as Arts Emergency put it, isn't to trade off Science against Art, to stifle fact with creativity. The point of Arts Emergency, and its wonderful and excellent volunteers, is to try to allow a level playing field regardless of privilege and wealth. Allowing the young people of today the freedom to choose their future without any gulf in opportunity and barrier from opposition. Arts Emergency is the opposition of their opposition. And they plan to take the fight to the end. Because this is an emergency. This is our emergency.