Too furious too speak v too offhand to listen

I was at the Big Link-Up on Tuesday, an interesting event run by the Cultural Learning Alliance. I missed the beginning, unfortunately, but managed to hear  a wonderful reading by the irreplaceable Michael Morpurgo and a truly awful speech by Ed Vaizey.

I’ve written before about Mr Vaizey. He’s an affable chap, with a cultured background, but he’s starting to model himself on Boris Johnson and it’s not a good move. At one point he claimed to know ‘nothing at all about government policy’ – clearly trying to make himself sound like a bluff, no-nonsense  fellow whom we can supposedly trust. Why he thinks it’s a good idea to disclaim all knowledge of the policies of the government of which he is a minister is completely beyond me.

During his speech (he ditched his prepared speech and spoke off-the-cuff – again, I felt, a bit of a ploy to get us on his side) he extolled the virtues of the local authority music services and looked forward to a time when they would be partnering schools and supporting cultural education for all our young people, helping to fulfil the Tories’ wish to provide all children with the chance to learn a musical instrument and sing, yada yada yada.

He then took some questions from the distinguished panel, which are available to hear on the Big Link Up website and are worth hearing.

THEN HE BUGGERED OFF.

Excuse my intemperate language, but many of us in the audience were all furious that he wasn’t willing or able to stay for questions from us.

Her Ladyship (me) then rose from her seat and delivered what I hope was an impassioned and devastating speech pointing out that many of these music services are under threat of losing part or all of their funding, despite the high esteem in which they are held even by the very councillors who are being forced to cut them. Mr Vaizey is clearly not aware of the many campaigns springing up round the country to protect these services, or of the recent research by the Federation of Music Services revealing the extent of the threat. (He’s got no excuse not to know this – it was reported on the BBC website among other obscure media outlets.)

An extract from the FMS report: “…around 18.5% of music services receiving local authority assistance are likely to have their funding completely stopped in the future. A further 47% of music services in receipt of local authority funds are contemplating cuts of varying levels from 10% to 50%; the remainder are awaiting the outcome of their local authority’s deliberations. This means that nearly all services currently receiving local authority support will have budgets reduced in some way.”

I admit my speech was ever so slightly fuelled by the glass of rosé wine I’d had at lunch, but my point, which I’ve made a number of times, still stands: the current government does not know what it is talking about when it comes to the arts and education.

Worse still, ministers seem incapable of listening to those who are able to tell them what is happening, and what the impact of their current precipitate and ill-considered actions may be.

As Mr Vaizey didn’t stick around, he probably still doesn’t know about the music service threat. Needless to say, I’m planning to write and tell him – but will he take any notice? I’m not holding my breath.

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Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 11:02  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well said Cathers. Mr V is speaking before me at the Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday and I’ll be interested to see if he deigns to “hang around” to hear us speak on a plank of government policy (ie philanthropy) upon which he and Mr Hunt are placing a great deal of weight. I feel they are similarly ignorant of the limits of philanthropy as an arts rescue plan (NO philanthropist has a full knowledge of the arts ecology in the way that the Arts Council has). If these people don’t wait to hear what we’re saying, how can they ever learn? And, having been introduced to Mr V at an arts philanthropy event on Monday night, I was deeply unimpressed with his manners. If he now wants to show us a bluff front of hearty ignorance, he’s chosen the wrong industry. WE all believe in intelligent communication – and we all learn our effing lines!

  2. Go for it Cathers !
    once you have hold of their ankles don’t let go ! (in a terrier stylee )
    if you need some help just get the Alex out and a blast of Seigfried should do the trick !

  3. I want to apologise for trying to talk you out of that glass of wine Lady E. I think it added fire to your belly and enhanced your speech. Well done!

  4. The UK art scene does need to change and Philanthropy has to be part of that, however there at least two major pitfalls. Firstly, is the idea that other countries, America is usually cited as the major one, manage to have a great arts scene without Governmental support. This is very misleading, it is true that there is a great deal of benefactors in the USA to the arts, and this is partially because of the differing tax laws, (more on that later) and a difference in the culture of giving, or should I say the need to be SEEN giving, however, there is huge Governmental support, the NEA national endowment for the arts gives a huge amount every year, and as someone who has seen first hand what happens to the industry when this is lost, I can assure you it is vital.
    The second pitfall is that this is not a good case or chance for a sink or swim mentality. If you just withdraw funding, without making the relevant changes, changing the tax laws, gift aid etc, setting up the machinery and organisations to help raise this money (for example we do not have a Chamber Music UK, unlike America which has Chamber Music America, or an Orchestral League) you will on the whole just lose these organisations.
    This has to a transitional process, some orchestras and operas are self sufficient, it is also of note, that not all worthwhile artistic pursuits are that profitable. New music for one, we have among some of the brightest compositional talent in the world, I went to college with two alumni who both work in Hollywood now, but anyone can see that it is fairly obvious that new music does not generate huge audiences, neither does the almost forgotten art of chamber music, but would we want a country without the Amadeus Quartet, or the Chillingirian Quartet, would we opt to erase these groups from our national consciousness? I doubt it……


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