It has been quite an historic and devastating year for arts and culture in the UK. It began with the crushing death of David Bowie in January and has gone rapidly downhill since then, culminating in Brexit. Maybe though, there is a way of looking at it which isn’t so downbeat. Just like the death of Bowie, he left us a great body of work, and a final masterpiece with Blackstar. So, what is the silver lining to Brexit for art and culture in the UK? What does Brexit mean for arts and culture in the UK? And, does Art actually help the economy?
Is Art Important?
Every individual will have a use for art in some aspect of their life. Whether that is listening to music in the car and watching your favourite soaps at night to going to the opera and catching the latest art-house film releases. Art effects us all daily, and we probably underestimate the importance of that. We learn how to react to situations, how to empathise with others a vast range of emotions and different cultures from art. So personally, even if we don’t acknowledge it, art play an important part in our lives. But, how important is it to the country as a whole?
Does Art Help the Economy?
Looking at the economy is the opposite of discussing art and culture. The latter is more about creative thoughts, feelings, themes and subtexts. Analysing the economy is more facts and figures. The Center for Economics and Business Research undertook a study which found that arts and culture makes up for 0.4 percent of Britain’s GDP. That is a big increase upon the 0.1 percent of government spending which goes towards art and culture. The report concluded that “proximity to arts and culture can translate to higher wages and productivity” Which is quite definitive in it’s answer as to whether Art does help the Economy.
Funding for the arts has been living with cuts for many years in the UK with the current Conservative government forcing cuts upon the BBC, as well as the British film industry. the UK Film Council has been broken up and funding reduced, ironically right after its biggest success with The Kings Speech which won four Oscars. This leaves the question how will the current political climate, and more specifically, Brexit, impact upon funding for arts and culture?
The impact of Brexit
There is a panic in the air post Brexit, no one knows what to expect, markets are fluctuating, and the pounds value is all over the place. What it means for the future, no one quite knows yet. But the forecast isn’t looking good. Stephen Deuchar, the director of Art Fund, says he is “deeply concerned with the impact leaving the EU will have on culture in the UK and on museums and galleries”. Why does someone so high up in the funding process have a deep concern? That would be because of the amount of EU funding which came in for the arts in the UK from Creative Europe. Creative Europe is the European Union’s programme to support the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors in the EU, and had pledged to put in 1.46 billion into the creative industries between 2014 and 2020. An example of the work it done, especially towards helping Britain and arts in the UK, is the money it put into Slumdog Millionaire, the underdog British film which went on to be another huge Oscar winner. To lose the access to funding from Creative Europe will be a huge blow to the UK arts and culture industry.
Also, leaving the EU will have an impact upon free movement in the EU, restricting international collaboration. One example of this could be the impact upon music festivals where it might mean extraneous contracts, visas and other paperwork to bring bands from Europe to our music festivals.
Is there a Bright Side to Brexit for the Arts?
There may be trouble ahead, as a famous song once said. But, Britian has always prospered as the underdog, and maybe our eccentric island mentality withdrawing into itself might benefit some great and weird art providing us with a band to rival The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Blurs and Oasis’ or maybe the political wasteland will unleash another Sex Pistols. IT’s surely going to provide plenty of debate and issues, themes and subtexts for British artists and filmmakers to explore.