Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A New Year Letter to Vince Cable...

Bob and Roberta Smith

Happy New Year. And to see the year in here is a brilliant letter from Conceptual Artist Bob and Roberta Smith to Vince Cable he posted yesterday on his Facebook page. It's terrific. The rise in tuition fees may have been voted in, but it doesn't mean that the protests end there. It's important to keep these issues alive in 2011...write that letter!

My letter to Vince Cable. You can write to Vince Cable too and demand the restoration of the teaching grant to the Arts and Humanities Departments of our Universities

by Bob AndRoberta Smith on Monday, January 3, 2011 at 10:49am
Dear Vince Cable @

You must restore the teaching grant to the Arts and Humanities in Universities. I think 'you know not what you do'. I hope this letter informs you of the delicate interlinking of government support to the arts.

The Roots of The Arts Council lie in the 'War Artist Scheme' of World War Two.
The Government commissioned artists to reflect, not just 'the action' but also the changes to Britain that the War brought. The print maker Eric Ravillious lost his life doing this job. Others like Henry Moore became household names. Once the Government had amassed the paintings and prints it showed them the people in touring shows. The idea was born that culture could be made by a diverse group of people and that it formed part of a conversation about National life. This dynamic was given form in peace time by The Arts Council. The Post War period also saw the expansion of Education. New Universities were built, then Polytechnics were created. In the Arts, Art Schools were transformed from being essentially 19th Century institutions giving diplomas in Art to mostly talented rich people to providing creative kids who fueled Britain's creative economy in Fashion, Music, Graphics, and the Fine Arts. My father was a working class lad. Because he could paint and draw his life was transformed. He ran Chelsea School of Art in the 1960's and 1970's. During that time Chelsea moved to a modernist building on the Kings Road and built up an extraordinary Art library under the stewardship of Fluxus scholar Clive Philpot.

Art schools are amazing places. They are places of social interchange where the wealthy intermingle with the deserving and Britain's culture is hot housed. The expansion of Art Education and the access to culture provided by countless English, Music, History and Philosophy departments in Universities across the UK is intertwined with the activities of The Arts Council, The British Council, The Local Authorities, who fund many smaller museums and the major Museums and Galleries. The Browne review in Higher Education raises fees so dramatically that the study of British culture will be go back to how it was in the nineteenth Century. We can look forward to more useless Bloomsberry groups.

The cuts to The Arts Council and other funders of Museums destroys and undersells British Culture. How can the country that produced Shakespeare cut core funding of the study of English? What kind of conservative does not want people to study Elgar? Someone should tell the Queen. How have we got to this sorry state where our Government is so ignorant that it is prepared to launch a War on British Culture? The Browne Review is the logical result of Peter Mandelson's desire to monetise the episteme. The transfer of Higher Education out of the Department of Education into the Department of Business Skills, or whatever it is called, was an attempt to place a value on every single unit of knowledge. This has proved to be a disaster for British Culture as The Browne review is splitting Universities in two dividing Culture from Science forever. Why are the chattering classes not up in arms about this devaluation of Dickens, Turner, Elgar and Emin? Is it because they all signed up like Jeanette Winterson to vote Liberal in the last election? It's true they were duped but now they have to join the battle the save Culture. The arts are a Universal language that say to humanity what unites us is huge wonderful and exciting and what divides us is small and mean. In the Arts, Britain is a superpower. The whole world aspires to speak English and visit Tate Britain. So Government, realise what you have got and stop bashing culture. The crazy thing is the Cuts to the Arts and Humanities and the Arts Council and the Local Authorities and Museums and Galleries combine to say to Audiences and artists alike,' You have had your fun but SO FAR AND NO FURTHER, that's the end of expansion of emancipation through culture for the British People. For me its like ripping up the Magna Carta.
Yours Bob and Roberta Smith

Stirring and inspiring stuff. I've also attached below a link to a You Tube clip featuring heroic comedian and writer Stewart Lee discussing the arts cuts and Tuition Fees. He discusses these issues very clearly, explaining the deep philistinism that underlies the government's right-wing idealogy, one of the key things that frightens me both as an artist and citizen living and working in this country. These are dark times...we need the Stewart Lee's and Bob and Roberta Smiths of this world to keep shining the light..

Stewart Lee

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