The Evil Imp

A New Hope?

The new Minister for Culture, Media and Sport in England, James Purnell, has promised to put an end to the mantra of achieving targets that have made the arts into little more than a process of arithmetic deduction for several years now.

He made these promises during a speech at the National Portrait Gallery in London. To whom he was speaking is not made clear.

For a long time the success or lack thereof of an arts project was based purely on how many people either took part in the event or how many people attended a particular performance/gallery or whatever. The effect of this has been a bias toward populist culture and asinine “education” projects that served no other purpose than to achieve the aforementioned targets.

If Mr Purnell is true to his word – and he’s a politician so why wouldn’t he tell the truth? – then this can only be a good thing for the arts. If Arts Council England (ACE) start assessing a project’s value on its merits instead of how many useless buzzwords (access, cultural diversity, empowerment, ad-nauseam) are in the application form then we might actually see work being produced based on the strength of the idea put forward by the artist.

Of course, a lot of this is dependent on the ACE officer assessing the application having some modicum of taste and a little bit of adventure in their heart.

If ACE starts behaving like the Film Council then we’re in a lot more trouble than we are now though because the British Film Industry™ couldn’t produce a decent movie to save its life and the Film Council can take a lot of the blame for that.

For years they have funneled money into one terrible movie after another and it has all been for nothing. When was the last time you saw a British movie (that means the money as well) that was any good?

To be honest we’re rather skeptical here in TheLab™ (that’s our job after all).

If there is a fundamental change in the attitude of funding creativity in England then the funding cuts may not bite as hard as we all fear they will.

Less money directed towards useless education projects and more money funneled toward employing artists to create work might just develop the kind of creative culture we all know is possible and the access and education will follow, with a little luck.

[ Speech Transcript ]