What Future for British Arts?

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Depuis la crise financière, les allocations et subventions offertes aux arts sont en baisses au Royaume-Uni. En cause, les accusations de mauvaise gestion et le financement de projets peu rentables. Mais les arts tels que le cinéma, la peinture ou encore la musique restent malgré tout un élément central de la culture britannique. Comment alors faire face à ces difficultés ? 

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Created in 1946, the Arts Council of Great Britain aims at distributing subsidies to support a range of artistic activities, museums and libraries. Since 1994, arts policy in the UK has been devolved to the national government and delegate administrations have to manage it: the Arts Council of England, the Scottish Arts Council and the Arts Council of Wales. Each is governed by a national board, appointed by and accountable to the government, and run by an executive team, headed a chief executive. They are a custodian of public investment, they are charged with getting the maximum value out of this. The Arts Council promotes “the enlightenment and entertainment arts and culture” and its mission is ‘Great art and culture for everyone’ through five goals: “excellence, for everyone, resilience and sustainability, diversity and skills, children and young people”.

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One of the sector that benefits the most from these aids is the movie industry but contrary to what one might think, it is not necessarily to subsidise art-house movies. While the CNC in France mainly subsidises national and art films, Britain prefers to subsidise blockbusters. Public subsidies should be redirected towards mass audience movies to create large exportable world successes, David Cameron announced in 2012. The aids must be “rebalanced to support more mainstream films that could become commercial successes, as well as satisfactory movies on a cultural level”, the Prime Minister said. Indeed, the films produced by Leavesden, including Harry Potter and James Bond, are the successful films whose studios should be favoured according to the Prime Minister.

This industry accounts for 4.5 billion pounds per year. The government announced the end of the “British Film Council”, which funded films like Bend It Like Beckham and most recently We need to talk about Kevin or Tyrannosaur. But film director Ken Loach has criticized this initiative harshly: “If we could predict which films will be successful, there would be no problems.” Indeed, The King’s Speech was a low-budget film that won four Oscars; The Artist is an exception which proves the rule in France. Besides, Hollywood makes it very difficult for the British independent movie industry to break through. 

toubiana2The Royal Opera House has had its core Arts Council funding cut by 15%

However, the British movie industry as well as other cultural institutions can be said to be in a crisis. Indeed, the national difficulties are responsible for the government’s decision to undercut 15% of the government’s subsidies to Art and to freeze one third of the subsidies granted to the movie industry in order to reduce the budget deficit. Thus, of the 1330 places that asked the ACE (Arts Council of England) for help in 2011, only 695 have actually obtained something. Furthermore, subsidies will now be allocated individually according to each one’s success. For example, the fashionable Serpentine Gallery will see its subsidies gain 31.2% whereas the Institute of Contemporary Art will lose 36.8% of its subsidies. These measures will particularly affect small and medium-sized institutions since the main institutions and national museums have successfully diversified their source of funding. Hence, public arts organisations that used to rely on local authority budgets will have to come to a new cooperative model to promote their work together, to build new audiences and rely on crowdfunding to survive. Moreover, some Britons claim that the subsidies aren’t always a good use of taxpayers’ hard-earned money as they are not always distributed fairly. Arts, as much as they are essential to our culture, should finance themselves from voluntary sources.

Elodie MEYER, Anais TORDJMAN & Ornella TOUBIANA 

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