Arts Council England (ACE) has a mantra which states; "never say anything with 100 words when it can be said in a 10,000 word summary that no one will ever read". With that in mind they have released the results of a year long "Public Value" study, the point of which was to
keep someone with nothing to do busy for more than a year and slaughter a few thousand trees in the process discover just what the public and professional artists alike think of the funding behemoth, the use of public money to fund art and the vexing question, "what is art?"
Here in TheLab™ we wouldn't dream of making you, our dear readers, wade through 30 pages of writing so tortured the US Senate is holding hearings to find out who is going to brought up on charges! Instead, we shall provide you with a summary, a proper summary, because 10,000 words is not a summary of anything!
We shall start by cutting through all the political double talk and get to the thrust of just what this "public value" nonsense is all about. The study was an attempt to persuade the government that the general public, in England only, doesn't really mind if the politicians hand over hundreds of million of pounds in the name of "art". When ACE started this endeavour they thought their funding was going to be cut but that didn't happen so this whole exercise was a waste of time, more so if you end up reading it!
I shall offer my apologies now for using bullet points because bullet points are the tool of choice for marketeers, PR types and fools but short of a full on audio visual display there are few options available for succinctly listing items on the interweb!
Within its 10,000 word summation ACE has arrived at the following conclusions with regard to how the great British public (the English ones at least) and others perceive the arts.
- Nobody knows what "Art" is!
- Some people like the arts and some people don't. Surprisingly, the people who work in the arts tend to like them more than most.
- If you don't work in the arts then your life is really tedious and only the arts can save you! (Think about it, you've had a hard day at work, your considering suicide and the only thing that's going to save you is Random Dance Company!)
- People don't mind funding the arts because they're really cheap!
- The arts is full of people wielding sharp sticks! ("stakeholders")
- Artists like to express themselves, no, really, they do!
- Nobody knows how ACE makes decisions about who does and does not get money. (We have news for you, they don't know either!)
- The public wants tax money spent on things they can touch!
- The public wants tax money spent on as many things as possible, spread it thin, the thinner the better because more is always better, isn't it?
- Some people think the arts are not "for people like us". These "people" apparently don't watch television, watch films, listen to music, read books or walk in an upright position! (We're looking at you Wayne Rooney)
You might think that we are making a lot of that up, but we're not. We've used less words but that is what this report concludes. There is much literary word play with phrases like "capacity for life", "experience for life" and the glue that holds all of this together, the "stakeholders" a word that is used 27 times, but our interpretation, although less verbose, is spot on!
All sarcasm aside there is nothing in this report that has not been said before for the last several thousand years, pretty much since man scrawled the first drawings on the cave wall. In more recent times, here on Article19, we wrote about the unquantifiable effects of the arts on "the people" over three years ago.
We understand that ACE is big and slow, the proverbial rudderless ship lost in a sea full of icebergs, but even for them this "report" is an exercise in nothing more than justifying the reasons a lot of people have to not like them very much.
At the time of writing ACE had not responded to a request from Article19 to explain just how much money they had spent doing all of this research. If it was more than a 50p, it was not money well spent.