Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Whither Britain's cultural life?

Britain has finally emerged from the political wilderness of the last week when the election of a hung parliament led to five days of speculation as to who would become the next Prime Minister. People interested in culture and the arts will now be wondering what the future holds under a coalition government led by the Tory David Cameron.

Experience shows that the most important feature of an arts minister or prime minister, as far as the cultural sector is concerned - is their level of personal engagement with the arts and culture. Political ideology is not so important. In Australia, the Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating was famous for his love of orchestral music, in particular the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. It was on his watch that Australia's one and only national cultural policy, Creative Nation, was launched in 1994.

Today, self-confessed arts aficionados are rare amongst politicians. They are keen to be seen in the crowd at sports events, but not at the arts. With most politicians these days keen to portray themselves as followers rather than leaders - thus there obsession with opinion polls - any appreciation of the arts is probably refined to the prime ministerial living room.

The UK's previously shadow minister for the arts, Jeremy Hunt, claims to enjoy opera and says that arts funding will not be radically cut under the new government. Only time will tell a) whether the new UK coalition can stand the pressures of running the country, and b) whether David Cameron really gets culture and the arts.

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