Writing this blog every day, week in and week out, I have a valuable platform for my own views. But sometimes its worth repeating the views of others entirely. Today is one of those days!
Sam West, chair of the National Campaign for the Arts, responded last week to Maria Miller’s speech in which she argued that the arts must make an economic case for their continued funding.
Some in the sector say that arts funding should be treated as a special case. They argue that Government support for the arts is less than 1% of total Government funding; and that’s a drop in the ocean. Culture cannot be seen in isolation at a time of unprecedented economic challenge. Everyone has to play a part in our efforts to reduce the deficit, my Department is no exception. Do we want to be seen to inspire our children or leave them with a mountain of debt?
I’d like to say two things about this remarkable paragraph.
Miller is literally correct to say that government support for the arts is less than 1% of total spending. It’s also less than 80% of total spending. The actual figure is 0.05% of total spending – one half of one tenth of one percent. Twenty times smaller than the figure Miller quotes. It’s TINY.
More importantly, follow her argument ‘if you don’t tolerate this, your children will inherit a debt mountain’ and we’ll never complain about anything. Cuts are not inevitable. Germany REALLY believes the arts are central to growth, and has recently increased arts funding by 8%.
I complain about cuts because I don’t want our children to inherit a cultural desert. I complain about cuts because I see my successful, underpaid, underfunded industry crippled by an inability to plan for the future. I complain about cuts because I’m sick of seeing the things I love, the things that make this country civilised, bled to death to pay for the greed of the banks.
The assumptions implicit in this paragraph suggest to me that deep down, Miller doesn’t believe the arts should be funded by the state at all.
From the Olivier Award acceptance speeches
Courtesy of Whatsonstage.com, here are some of the best acceptance speeches made on Sunday evening
- From Michael Ball, collecting the award for Best Actor in a Musical for playing Sweeney Todd:
Well, I’m not sure I deserve this, but I’ve also got sciatica and I don’t deserve that either.
- From Simon Stephens, collecting the award for Best New Play for his adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:
Well, you know, this has been quite a good evening. I’m a fan of Match of the Day 2 and nice curry, but this is quite good too.
- From Gillian Lynne, collecting a special Olivier Award:
Some of our shows are still roaming the world, which is very fortunate. It means you have the odd tin of caviar.
- And from the press room at the Awards, Michael Frayn told Whatsonstage after collecting his own special Olivier Award:
It’s a very great honour and I’m very touched, but it’s like when they put the hook on for you in the days of music hall – it means stop now and take a rest. I don’t think I’m going to write anything else, I think I’ve finished. I’m currently writing the screenplay for my last novel, but apart from that I’ve got absolutely nothing planned.
Quotes on acting
- Helen McCrory, Olivier nominated last Sunday for The Last of the Haussmans that she did at the National:
It’s feast or famine. My husband Damian (Lewis) and I have been at home for the last five months unemployed.
- Samantha Bond, seen in the West End last year in What the Butler Saw
I was in What The Butler Saw last year in only a black petticoat. I never thought I’d be wearing next to nothing, in 3in heels, pretending to be drunk… at the age of 50.
- Susannah Fielding, recently in Trelawny of the Wells at the Donmar Warehouse:
There’s no way I could live off stage work. I did a voiceover for Tulisa’s new album to top up my wages. My friends were more impressed with that.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, soon to be seen onstage again in A Season in the Congo at the Young Vic:
Always be careful running with swords. When we were doing Othello I stabbed Ewan McGregor in the codpiece. A member of the front row let out a little “Ooh!”’
Interview of the week
Maria Friedman, interviewed in last Sunday’s Observer on why she stopped doing big stage roles:
Cancer. It focused my mind. I was in New York doing Woman in White [in 2006] and every day I had to cross Central Park to get my radiotherapy. I walked there with my husband and my two sons. Suddenly I had time with these three people I loved so much, and I realised I missed them. I felt so compromised spending every evening in the dark, missing bedtimes. I couldn’t bear it. I was lucky; I’d paid off my mortgage. So I took the decision. I gave up my agent because I knew it would be even harder if I was offered things. But my children are older now, and there are loads of things that could tempt me back. I’ve just got a new agent. I’ve fallen in love with the process again, with the alchemy.
The strangest review of the week
I’m not sure I’ve read a stranger review recently than this one of Sons and Fathers, a new adaptation of Chekhov’s Platonov at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre that is transferring to the Arcola next month. It’s true that Observer critic Clare Brennan only has 160 words, but there’s nothing at all about the play in it – no mention of a single actor, what it is about, or why its good; just that it is.
Here it is in full:
You know those football matches where, from that very first touch of the ball at kick-off, you can tell this is going to be a good one – and then it really is? That fluttering incredulity, all the way through – “They can’t keep this up!” Sure enough, they fluff it; your stomach tightens – “It was too good to last.” Then the broken stride mends, the sides are back on flow, your heart’s beating fast and you just want it to keep on going. Well that’s how I felt watching Helena Kaut-Howson’s direction of her own, updated translation of Anton Chekhov’s early play, Platonov. Only decades of learned behaviour stopped me leaping up, punching the air and yelling “Yowza!” at some aspect of the acting, the lighting, the sound, music, design – the whole damn thing. If it had been football, there’d be enough space to give you a blow-by-blow breakdown. But it wasn’t so there isn’t. Just go. See what you think.
Misleading tweet of the week
Finally, mea culpa – I tweeted this on Sunday live from the Olivier red carpet:
— Mark Shenton (@ShentonStage) April 28, 2013
A couple of people thought there had been a massacre on the red carpet. That is only what happened later when ITV edited the footage into a highlights package…