Saturday, 16 February 2013


Ever since the recession set in (and possibly before), we've heard numerous suggestions that we should move towards the American model, whereby the arts are funded through philanthropy, rather than by the state.  Could it work in the UK?

We've just spent a week in Santa Barbara, California, where there is a very vibrant and high-quality arts scene, funded almost entirely by sponsorship, donations, patrons and subscriptions. It certainly works here - but this is one of the most affluent communities in the whole USA!  I'd be interested to see how well it works in Harlem, or in Hicksville!

The concerts here are very well supported too - but I don't get the impression that audiences are any younger than those in the UK - and I don't get the impression that young people are any more engaged with quality music or that they consider it any more relevant to them.  As the audience for good music gets ever older and smaller, one wonders if the level of philanthropy will decrease accordingly.

In the UK?  Well, of course, any funding for the arts is always welcome, from anywhere - but, as far as philanthropy goes, we're starting from a pretty low base. Yes, it would be very good if the government and the Arts Council did all they could to encourage philanthropic contributions - but it might help if they actually set a good example!  We are seeing more and more examples of Councils cutting their expenditure on the arts, central government has cut arts funding, the arts are becoming ever more sidelined in education and, as a result of years of neglect, fewer people in all walks of life have any real interest, knowledge, appreciation or understanding of music and the arts.

In these circumstances, simply cutting funding for the arts and hoping that "philanthropy" will take up the slack is utter nonsense!  We have to start by educating people properly - and then, when they actually understand the importance of the arts, maybe we can hope they will be more inclined to make a contribution!