Ken Loach nails the subtle reason Labour’s commitment on the arts will transform Britain

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Renowned director Ken Loach nailed the subtle reason why Labour’s commitment on the arts will ‘transform’ Britain on 24 November.

“Bigger than it may seem on paper”

Loach – the director of I, Daniel Blake, Cathy Come Home, and his latest work Sorry We Missed You – was speaking alongside musicians such as Lily Allen and MIA at Labour’s ‘Arts for All’ launch. The party has pledged £1bn of cultural investment in art and music.

He began with a reference to former Labour prime minister Clement Attlee’s promise on the subject, saying the 1945 manifesto was “very relevant to what we’re doing today”. Its commitment, he said, was:

‘We desire to assure to our people full access to the great heritage of culture in this nation.’ And what is happening today is renewing that promise.

Then, he said:

the transformative effect for a pupil who’s maybe having trouble at home, who’s angry with the world, who has no self-respect… To go to a music lesson 1-on-1 and learn an instrument is absolutely transformative. [That] increases that self-respect, increases that sense of worth. And that’s absolutely what music can do.

So to know that a Labour government will make certain that every child has the chance to learn an instrument, that’s absolutely transformative. Much bigger than it may seem on paper. Because it means hope.

Labour’s ‘Arts for All’

Join us LIVE for our ‘Arts for All’ launch.

Posted by Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday, 24 November 2019

“National cultural renaissance”

Labour’s arts pledges include:

  • ‘Investing £1bn to transform the UK’s cultural landscape by upgrading and building new libraries, museums, galleries and arts venues across the country’.
  • ‘Investing £175m a year in an arts pupil premium to give every primary school student in the country access to creative and cultural experiences’.
  • ‘Launching a new ‘Town of Culture’ competition’.

And Jeremy Corbyn said:

The arts are a common inheritance that make our society culturally richer and put a smile on all our faces. We must cherish them and protect them.

Labour’s national strategy for the arts will embrace our rich cultural heritage from William Shakespeare to Ben Okri, Mary Quant to Tim Berners-Lee, delivering a national cultural renaissance

“Tragedy”

Loach also condemned the Conservatives’ record on the matter, saying:

it isn’t just knowing of the culture of the past, but releasing everyone’s creativity. And in that respect, it’s such a tragedy that the funding for arts in schools has decreased. And we see that in the figures, and the great decline in arts entries for GCSE – 35% less and a quarter less entries for A levels

Soon after David Cameron took power in 2010, his government cut funding for the Arts Council England by 30%.

Life without art sucks

Loach and Corbyn are right. We need to live a life beyond just work. And free expression through individual creativity is a key route to happiness.

But it’s not just that art provides therapy and an outlet for the artist. The product itself – the music track, painting or digital creation – can be invaluable. Artwork is a permanent piece of cultural representation that isn’t just consumed and cast away like old clothes or a hamburger. It can provide meaning, solace, and emotional truth for generations to come.

Labour’s ‘arts for all’ pledge is yet another reason we must fight tooth and nail to defeat the Conservatives.

Featured image via Jeremy Corbyn MP/ YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. “We need to live a life beyond just work. And free expression through individual creativity is a key route to happiness.”

      Indeed, that is a matter all political discussion ought address. Put differently, the overarching political aim should be to enable people to engage in the least necessary work for comfortable existence and have resources available for using the rest of their time, the truly important time, in social and cultural pursuits. Even enlightened Tories might go along with that. Socialists would add that free time not curtailed by need to strive for necessities is required for the dignity of all people; one means of delivering that being universal basic income set at adequate level.

      This topic concerns what I term ‘secular spirituality’. Sentient beings must justify to themselves their existence, and give meaning through activities they choose and deem of lasting value. One person’s choice may seem trite to another but that is of no matter so long as there is mutual co-existence without too much disharmony.

      Cultural pursuits fall loosely on a spectrum if one orders them in terms of effort/preparation required to create and effort/preparation required to appreciate particular creations; in my opinion the two correlate quite closely in terms of characteristics of intellect, education, and determination; ‘effort’ in terms of financial cost of creation is irrelevant because cultural value is not directly commensurable with financial input. In terms of this discussion, twenty million US dollars might be invested in making the latest Hollywood would-be blockbuster but that’s no guarantee the product will be held in esteem after a year or two even among its intended demographic (re: Hollywood think ‘Redneck’ and denizens of trailers); whereas output by Ken Loach, produced on modest budget, has captured the imaginations of many people endowed with a degree of discernment.

      There is a serious impediment to creative expression; one of these stultifying culture rather, than as intended, promoting its creation. That is copyright. It is an egregious monopoly on distribution (music, film, general literature, photographs, academic literature, and so forth). ‘Rights’ are traded as commodities. ‘Rights’, generally lasting many decades, support the lazy rentier economics of entitlement.

      Yet THAT is NOT the principal reason for condemning the principle of copyright. Rottenness at the core of the concept rests with restriction on derivative works during the term of copyright. Other than in the academic community, the notion that ideas of others are there freely to be derived from, expanded, and mutated, into the tangentially original so long as attribution is made, is a non-starter. For instance, assuming the ‘music’ of the Beatles has any merit whatsoever, who would dare compose for publication ‘symphonic variations on the theme’ of one of their songs? Nobody would dare for decades after their deaths. Copyright in the arts places derived originality on hold, seemingly in perpetuity in the case of Disney.

      The question arises as to how transforming the population at large from being ‘consumers’ to participants in culture could be effected. They are blocked almost every step of the way. Why should not fans of Harry Potter stories be prevented from publishing variants on the theme of the books, perhaps alternative endings?

      Advent of digital encoding for cultural artefacts and of the Internet has exposed false assumptions underlying creation and distribution economics; regarding the latter, there cannot be market-economics in absence of scarcity: digital sequences are endlessly reproducible and transmissible.

      There are ways forward in absence of copyright and the plethora of rights holding middlemen leading to price gouging, which itself encourages black markets to meet demand more reasonably. Genuinely creative individuals, i.e. those not manufactured by ‘content’ industries in cahoots with advertisers and what advertisers find acceptable, can make a good living by selling their skills (e.g. soliciting patronage) rather than selling their ephemeral, inherently not scarce, digital products.

      Leonardo da Vinci made his living through commissions. The idea of royalties from viewing or elaborating upon his works would have seemed ridiculous, as indeed then and now.

      —–

      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license (sic).

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