The Cultural and Creative Industries can contribute £76.9 billion to the British economy annually and are the fastest growing industry in the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has reported. Yet the past five years have seen increasingly harsh cuts to Britain's arts and culture funding as a consequence of the government's austerity measures, threatening to stop this progress in its tracks.
Now perhaps more than ever we have a generation of talent growing up with aspirations for a career in the creative world, encouraged to be filmmakers because YouTube showed them that anybody could do it, or to be a music producer from their bedroom with more affordable software and equipment available to do so. Politics needs to cater for these people and also for those whose talent is singing, dancing, painting or acting, and we need to consider what impact our vote may have on these people going forward. The prospect of even higher tuition costs for example, could price talented but poorer artists out of the education they need. While stricter immigration controls may cause a detrimental shift in the internationality of the UK's art schools and culture in our communities.
So, on the day before the general election takes place, you might wonder why this has not been a more prominent subject of debate for the parties aiming to win your vote. It matters to the way we shape and think about our nation's cultural identity, but also to social and economic progress over the next five years. If you care about the government's future commitment to creativity and the quality of the UK's renowned arts and culture, then perhaps a quick recap of some of the parties' stances on this topic is worth taking a look at.
Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats alike, promised in their manifestos that access to the national museums and galleries would remain free, a policy implemented by the last Labour government. The Conservatives also support plans for a new £78 million multi-arts centre in Manchester, The Factory, bolstering the North's ability to compete with the capital, despite a similar venue, HOME, having just opened in Manchester at the cost of £25 million. The Green Party, in tune with some of its other admirable but perhaps idealistic economic policies, proposes a £500m increase to arts funding, while reducing VAT to 5% for live performances.
In Wales and Scotland, arts funding is devolved, but Wales have already shown their commitment to the arts, through its Creative Learning through the Arts initiative, launched in March, pledging £20 million to arts education across the next five years. The SNP, also, have indicated a commitment to a further £100 million investment in jobs in its creative industries, continuing support for its established museums and Edinburgh festivals, while also claiming it will receive a greater share of the BBC license fee, creating more jobs and ensuring coverage reflects Scottish interests.
Finally, the Labour Party indicates a committed vision to the value of the arts and the availability of culture to all. They plan to rebalance funding across the country, presumably hoping to reverse its extreme metropolitan swing, while also increasing the number of apprenticeships in the creative industries. They also pledge to improve creative education in schools and after-school clubs, ensuring future generations will have had access to the arts from a young age. They also express their committal to the importance of arts policy, claiming to create a Prime Minister's Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries.
While it is difficult to know what action any future government will really take and whether they will be able to keep any promises with another coalition on the cards, it is important not to let arts and culture be diminished, no matter who takes office next. After weeks of the same arguments repeated on our television screens, it is easy to forget that politics stretches so much farther than the headlines and talking points. It affects architecture, design, fashion, film, television, visual and performing arts, music, museums and libraries and the future leaders within these sectors. The deficit and NHS are of course hugely important, as is the similarly ignored issue of climate change, which may also be bound up in our arts and culture, but the health of a nation is not purely economic, nor physical, but mental too. The will to express oneself runs deep and for the next five years and beyond, creativity and expression should not be sacrificed at any cost. Austerity not only affects quantity, but the quality and diversity of the talent, the content and the vitality that make the UK's arts scene the inimitable force it is.