A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough be in the audience of a specially commissioned BBC Question Time Arts Special. It was part of the BBC Get Creative Campaign, of which Art on the Street is a champion. Held at the BBC Radio Theatre, it was a who’s who of the arts including the Royal Academy’s Charles Saumarez Smith, sculptor Cornelia Parker, the magnificent (yes, I’m a fan) Jeanette Winterson, and an audience of intimidating creative fortitude. I was terrified, but my nerves soon disappeared as it become increasingly clear that there is only one issue surrounding the arts, as everything else at the moment – a crippling lack of money.
The subject that struck a chord with me most was inaccessibility. The Warwick Commission recently reported that higher social groups account for 87% of visits to free museums and galleries, prompting the suggestion that they should charge entry.
It’s obvious the vast majority of investment in the arts lies in London and we in Maidenhead should be readily able take advantage of the wealth of free resources in the capital, but that’s far from the reality. Travel costs are restrictive and shrinking arts education impacts the desire of pressed families to spend a fortune on Travelcards and packed lunches to head to the Tate. The result? A generation who have pitifully low exposure to arts and culture; a critical area that nurtures lateral thinking and feeds social mobility.
The sheer numbers of families who visit free workshops at Art on the Street events and all the children benefitting from Norden Farms fantastic ‘Farm Out’ education programme, (thanks to grant subsidies, sponsorship and kindness) are testimony that there is no lack of interest, only resource. There needs to be more.
As Jeanette Winterson wisely observed “Every child is born creative, that’s hardwired…saying we shouldn’t put tax payers money into this is a lie about life”.