Arts and the Logics of Survival

EDITION: 5th Birthday.

Arts funding in Britain places institutions in a constant position of precarity, with survival never guaranteed. This has particularly grim impacts on workers in the sector from musicians to office staff.

On 4 November the die was cast on the fate of the arts in the UK, with devastating news for the English National Opera, Britten Sinfonia, Glyndebourne and many other organisations that have been left in disarray.1

This exercise of rebranding, re-shuffling, re-allocating and restructuring along geopolitical lines through the criteria of funding by Arts Council England (ACE) was by no means anything new, but merely the latest instance of a decades-long process of the subjecting of the arts to the logics of cultural hegemony. This process operates under a simple, unspoken threat: your survival will never be guaranteed.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund brought to the forefront the main impulses behind arts funding under neoliberalism – money is not allocated according to the needs of artists and creators, but to preserve established institutions and secure the reproduction of capital in a situation defined by the increased private character of arts institutions, which, despite that private character, are sustained by an ever more fragile system of public funding.

The Cultural Recovery Fund embodied the main impulses behind neoliberal arts funding – money is not allocated according to the needs of artists and creators, but to preserve established institutions and secure the reproduction of capital.

Launched in March 2020, the Government’s flagship Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) ostensibly sought to “tackle the crisis that has faced our most loved cultural organisations and heritage sites during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In reality, however, the CRF merely entrenched the logic and practices of the arts’ perpetual dependency on private capital, further extending private capital’s control of, and access to, the cultural field.

The creative arts have long been treated as a form of social capital that can be tightly controlled and portioned out according to opaque standards and a hierarchy of established interests. The distribution of CRF money offers a stark demonstration of this. But even in ‘normal’ times, performing organisations, venues, and museums are expected to go through the ritual of begging for both private and public funding (the latter through Arts Council England (ACE)). Many of these institutions are registered as charities, whilst also employing full-time staff—often whole departments—dedicated to attracting private funding and new donors. The larger the department, the better the chance at securing a foothold into networks of private fundraising and corporate interests

Perhaps most notable (and symptomatic) in the first round of the CRF in September 2020 was the absurd amount of money given to Secret Cinema. Against the CRF’s stated aims (such as “maintaining jobs” and “keeping business afloat”), the Fund’s board chose instead to give £1 million to a significantly loss-making immersive-theatre company that has contributed to gentrification of inner cities through utilising ‘pop-up’ rented spaces and has often refused to pay its actors. Indeed, according to the CRF’s own guidelines, Secret Cinema should have been automatically disqualified, given the sheer amount of debt it owed prior to the pandemic—not to mention its lack of ownership of any actual cinemas.

Perhaps most notable (and symptomatic) in the first round of the Cultural Recovery Fund in September 2020 was the absurd amount of money given to Secret Cinema.

Secret Cinema was one of the CRF’s ‘headline awards’, along with the pizza chain Mission Mars, and the club-focused lifestyle brand Ministry of Sound. This would suggest, as Tim Concannon has noted, that the Fund’s primary aim was, in fact, “propping up hospitality, nightclub, and property development businesses, many of which are run by people with links to the City, the Conservative party and the current government”. This system of patronage is emblematic of the Government’s prioritisation of business and capital over grassroots, community-led creative expression. The emphasis on these priorities is particularly damaging in a situation of tightened spending, research conducted by the House of Commons Library shows that arts expenditure has fallen year-on-year since 2010.

But the centrality of the priorities of the capitalist state in arts funding, is also nothing new. Since John Maynard Keynes first established the Arts Council of Great Britain, in 1946, the arts have been a terrain on which the state has carried out its political and ideological projects, with funding expanding and contracting accordingly. Even a time of relative plenty, such as the Festival of Britain’s nationalist-Modernist reinvention of cultural output, was firmly anchored to the wider ideological goals of the state. Likewise, the period of radical restriction in the 1980s, when ACE (under William Rees-Mogg) slashed the number of organisations receiving regular grants by half, was rooted in the new Thatcherite state project. And so, while the precarity that we experience today is certainly linked to the particular ideological commitments of Johnsonism, it is also an intrinsic part of state arts funding, which is always ideologically-motivated. It is also, like any ideological form, shaped in a qualified way by popular pressure but within given constraints of the state project - as Alan Peacock put it, the precarity of the Arts Council in the late twentieth century saw it adopt a “Micawber-like strategy of waiting for funding to turn up as a result of public protests at orchestral ‘underfunding’, and then to bail out orchestras at the eleventh hour”. While differing funding regimes may offer greater or lesser degrees of artistic autonomy, arts funding is primarily about the political-ideological uses of art; ‘art for art’s sake’ doesn’t really figure.

It is a funding model that favours anyone but the artist: buildings, organisations, and increasingly—as with Secret Cinema—venture capital. Economically, artists have been sidelined, comprising only 3% of salaried employees in publicly-funded arts organisations. Often, artists are the only people not getting paid—and when they are paid, they are usually on freelance contracts that barely cover their costs. The Paying Artists campaign has found that,

Despite the visual arts contributing £2.3 billion gross value added to the UK economy each year and employing more than 37,000 people—71% of artists had not received a fee for their contributions to publicly-funded exhibitions and 63% had to turn down exhibition offers from publicly-funded galleries because they couldn’t afford to work for nothing.”

Meanwhile, institutions have expanded their administration, marketing, and business development departments. This has tipped the scales away from artistic activity being led by artists themselves, and towards a reliance on marketisation and managerialism. This creates a self-fulfilling paradox: the more organisations restructure themselves to rely on fundraising, corporate sponsorship, and marketing, the more vulnerable they become when the floor melts away beneath them.

One very telling aspect of the CRF is its secondary, but by no means insignificant, role as an ideological gesture. A clause in the agreement for receiving the funding stated that the recipient organisation was required to acknowledge and praise the government intervention with public messaging that included the #HereforCulture hashtag, flooding social media feeds across the country with universal exaltation for the scheme as the names of the recipients were first announced in August 2020. Instead of bringing forth discussions on how funding was structured and would impact artists in all fields, this pre-empting of the narrative indicated how neoliberalism has successfully created a climate in which these interventions are praised as miracles for happening at all, obfuscating the failures of the grant to prevent the loss of jobs and livelihoods, mystifying the funding process itself and completely leaving out those who failed to receive its hierarchies of survival.

In analysing the arts, particularly orchestral music after the pandemic, a considerable difficulty is posed not only by the total incommensurability between management and government priorities organised through funding bodies on the one hand and workers on the other, but also contradictions between office workers and musicians. The latter set of contradictions, moreover, pose serious problems for thinking about possibilities of solidarity. The interests of senior management are to some extent aligned with government priorities, and integrated into capitalism and its logics in a conscious, top down fashion internal to the running of the organisations and the expectation to have ideological effects serving the wider reproduction of existing social relationships. These interests are in conflict with those of performers or artists, or those workers without whose (often invisibilised work) there would be no cultural production. If there is a thread linking these incommensurable perspectives it is the question of survival, though even here it is experienced very differently from above and from below. Equally too, it is necessary to explore a little how this logic, which is determined by a particular sense of what and who “culture” is for, shapes what is produced.

When the pandemic hit it rapidly became clear that events and the normal running of institutions would be put on hold and for musicians this meant the disappearance of regular paid work. For office workers, by contrast, furlough meant that most of their income was supported, although once furlough came to an end (and in many cases before then given uncertainty over how long it would continue), office workers in the arts became extremely vulnerable. Many musicians, in the absence of such support, had to turn to supplementary craft, artisanal, part-time and insecure work to make ends meet, or otherwise leave the profession altogether. The gulf between musicians and office staff that work under the same banner, a gulf significantly opened up by the way in which furlough operated, is also made clear in the public response of arts organisations to the radically changed landscape. Work normally performed in the concert hall became work that was performed on video to appeal for donations without a comparable fee, flattening the interests of working musicians into those of interests of the manageial staff in preserving the pre-existing structure of the organisation. The endless performances of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ marked a unity in how the broad sectors of the arts and the NHS were reshaped for the stay-at-home public, the defence of their existence recapitulated not with ideas of potential new political and social relations or greater scrutiny of neoliberal austerity, but with a mere call for charity, articulated through a nostalgia that limits music’s radical capacity for imagination and a performer’s self-determination and actualisation.

The aesthetic safeness of performances of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is not just an effect of the pandemic. We can see, more widely, how the musical work of the players that make up the orchestra is moulded to meet the ideological requirements dictated by the administrative and political structures that encase it. Where and how often musicians are moved around the country to meet quotas of regional performances (with wildly varying efforts made by the organisations into fostering actual relationships with the communities that live there), a repertoire that is programmed by management teams that can only ever approach the possibilities of new and experimental music as a calculated risk (though there are laudable exceptions) and commercial agencies that frequently revert to nationalistic-populist garden festival programming reveal a fundamental lack of control on the part of the performers. Within the orchestra-as-institution musicians are frequently denied agency as artistic impulses are dictated and emanated from a range of outside interests of the Arts Council, external promoters and private benefactors, leaving the players over-stretched and exhausted, with limited capacities for creative influence in their work.

The musical work of the players that make up the orchestra is moulded to meet the ideological requirements dictated by the administrative and political structures that encase it.

The economic vulnerability of musicians, deepened along pre-existing fault lines by the pandemic, is dire. The employment many orchestral musicians have is part-time work in a gig (literally) economy that is concert-by-concert, recording session-by-session; musicians may be attached to a particular orchestra or organisation but are employed as freelancers without the security of permanent contracts. In a fiercely competitive field of talented performers, there’ll always be someone who will pick up work another musician is unable or willing to do. This system of relations between employers and musicians has created an environment where the musician as a worker is not only disposable but extremely limited in their ability to organise effectively with other musicians as a collective.

Within six months of the pandemic, it was found by the Musicians Union that 34% of professional musicians were considering leaving the industry, with nearly half having had to take on work elsewhere already, with the sector as a whole losing two thirds of its income in 2020. In a report taken one year after the pandemic, Freelancers Make Theatre Work found that 34% of freelancers still weren’t able to access help through the government’s SEISS scheme, and 58% of performers represented by Equity found that help from SEISS was not enough to live on. Whilst there were significant limits to the furlough scheme, the contrast here between office workers and musicians in terms of government support is striking. The picture of devastation that the virus brought is clear to see.

How, then, did we get here? What attitudes have led to the delineation of the arts and the livelihoods of musicians as an acceptable loss when their systems of securing work grinds to a halt? How do we build an alternative to ensure the same won’t happen again? The incommensurability of the experiences of workers and management in its intertwining with the priorities of the capitalist state, an incommensurability that is further structured by the fact these priorities tend to marginalise cultural workers means that it is necessary to consider how policies to manage the effects of the pandemic within the arts, most notably the Cultural Recovery Fund, have been emblematic of how the arts in the UK have been treated in general and the stage that was set before the pandemic.

A few years ago, there was the regretful aftermath of a proposed rebrand for a performing classical music organisation in London that no longer exists. It was recounted that one line of reassurance before the internal presentation to staff began was:

We’re not changing what we do. We’re changing the narrative around us.

The position many arts organisations find themselves in is a strange confluence of having to fulfil the demands of market logic with the pressures of presenting as a charitable cause worthy of donations, having to chase every revenue stream they can. Not only captured and held hostage by an economic environment that has been shaped for decades by neoliberalism, the language of the arts in the public sphere has wholly adapted its modes of communication and messaging. Idioms of “creativity”, “opportunity” blend seamlessly with the language of business and the growth of capital. In the end, institutions are merely narrating their own decline through language that is limited by their own precarity, in a culture which continually stifles the life of the arts and institutionalises its access, value and sustainability as a livelihood exclusively to the wealthy. Language like “social capital”, should not then be taken as indicating any sort of rupture with neoliberalism, instead,

a more ‘creative’, civic-minded language: a language that re-found social capital as the perfect foil for a reinvented ‘creative’ and (nominally ‘social’) form of neoliberalism… the language change manifests itself in the shifts from ‘privatization to public-private partnership.

For arts organisations in the UK, the prime motivator behind the adoption of market strategies is survival. Given this, it is not a question of necessarily blaming institutions, especially smaller ones, the landscape of the arts offers only one real choice: adapt to neoliberal priorities or disappear. As Fielding Hope outlines in his article for New Socialist, the relentless subjugation of the arts to the profit motive has brought many organisations and musicians to the brink in perpetua. And, of course, this is not the only malign impact of the state, there is police (and local council) repression of grime and underground music scenes, and, as Hope has argued elsewhere in New Socialist there are also the impacts of the border regime in preventing musicians being able to perform in Britain.

It is easy to say that the arts are shaped by neoliberalism, which, while true, doesn’t offer the full picture. In order to both understand and challenge these processes, we need to explore precisely how this has happened. These processes are decisively enshrined in the public institutions that determine how funding is distributed. To speak of neoliberalism as determining the state of the arts then is to reject the notion of neoliberalism that conceives of it as an anti-state project, instead it requires us to analyse how the capitalist state shapes the arts in a neoliberal direction within the wider social reproduction of capitalism.

It is easy to say that the arts are shaped by neoliberalism, which, while true, doesn’t offer the full picture. In order to both understand and challenge these processes, we need to explore precisely how this has happened.

This merger of capital(ists) and the state in the organisation of the arts, can be seen most clearly in terms of the individuals elevated to significant positions and their connections. Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of tycoon Richard Murdoch, was appointed to the National Council of Arts Council England (ACE) in 2017, a position she holds to this day. This move cemented the shared interests and investments linked between Murdoch, the Chair of Arts Council England Nicholas Serota, and his wife Teresa Gleadowe. Murdoch’s charity, the Freedlands Foundation, has awarded funding to arts companies that both Gleadowe and Serota declared interests in, such as Nottingham Contemporary and the ]Cornubian Arts & Science Trust]( Gleadowe has sat on the Freedlands Foundation’s advisory committee and also sat on the board of Kneehigh Theatre. Kneehigh Theatre’s artistic director Emma Rice, after a short stint at the Globe, went on to form the company Wise Children a, which described itself as “firmly and deeply rooted in the South West”, gained £450,000 in funding from ACE in 2017, despite only existing nine days before the funding deadline and beginning its operations in London’s Old Vic before it eventually moved to Bristol. It will have received another £1,900,000 by the end of 2022. While the barriers of funding can be lowered on a whim for those who are deemed to be worthy of full creative development, who have no shortage of friends in high places, hundreds of applicants still found themselves without government support in the depths of the pandemic for their ‘unviability’ – a stick that is used to enforce the hierarchies of funding. As Dani Hadley, the owner of a music venue in central Birmingham which missed out on the initial round of the CRF described it,

We don’t have the financial support of a chain; I don’t have a dedicated team of fundraisers or bid writers. I know that we’re culturally significant, and we ticked all of the criteria. I do feel that we were disadvantaged from the outset, perhaps because we haven’t used this approach before, or our name isn’t familiar in the world of public funding.

Nicholas Serota’s own history prior to his appointment as Chair of ACE is one of capitulation to private and colonial interests, the most notable being during his directorship of the Tate, from which he set out to sanitise its contents in alignment with the right-wing press’ desire to restore art as “one of our great civilising forces”. As seen recently with the National Gallery and Scottish Ballet, the infamous sponsorship of the Tate by BP was met with a long-running and eventually successful protest campaign by environmental campaigners and artist collective Liberate Tate, but vital to note is that the sponsorship itself only brought in a tiny proportion of the Tate’s income – less than 0.44% between 2006-7, revealing that the agreement did more for BP’s publicity and legitimacy more than it did financially for the Tate. In the “modernising” quest to transform the public consumption of art through commercialisation, private investment is a pre-requisite before it is even a necessity. The ideological and organisational effects of the sponsorship, merging big capital and a major arts institution, mattered far more than the money.

The ideological and organisational effects of BP’s Tate sponsorship, merging big capital and a major arts institution, mattered far more than the money.

For smaller organisations, their precarity and dependency on sponsorship is identified as an entry point for trusts, corporations and property developers that seek influence and legitimation. For an orchestra, it might mean that a crucial outreach or educational programme can be funded, and for a very wealthy sponsors, it might mean access to the conductor, management and other patrons – yet more networking opportunities for those seeking to offload excess capital where it might further their image: driving the ever-growing rentier economy. The creative work of the orchestra and “universality” of music are easily co-opted to suit these cynical interests, as where music education and urban grassroots venues have been decimated, even the most limited school workshops and therapeutic music-making an orchestra can provide with private funding are hailed as remarkable interventions. Once again, the ‘civic-minded language’ appears when euphemisms of ‘cultural partnership’ are used by property developers worth multiple billions as they take advantage of a local orchestra’s reputations to validate the monopolisation of city neighbourhoods, as we have seen in outer London and Manchester in pairing the development of rapid new-builds with cultural programming tacked on the surface, vapid gestures at cohering ‘communities’ while privatising and commercialising of the pre-existing land at an eye-watering scale.

The networks of state funding and private sponsorship, moreover, fail to prioritise the circumstances and experiences of concert-goers. Instead of audiences, marketing cultivates consumers. To take one example, awareness and experience of orchestral music is frequently accessed only through the performance of music as a commodity, which is either sold for the cost of a concert ticket, or as we have seen during the pandemic, frequently streamed online without a charge. Although the latter could be construed as a recompense for the absence of the live experience, it opens up a new challenge to the barriers of accessing performances inherent to the pre-pandemic market. Why are many working class people priced out of orchestral performances? Why can’t recording concerts for streaming become a new norm for the benefit of the disabled, the elderly and those without reliable access to public transport? This opportunity to normalise and replicate methods of improving accessibility to the arts must be seized to open up the connections between to audiences not only as those who can fill up buildings’ seat capacities and cheer live performers, but also as online communities who choose to bring such connections into their homes and engage with performances in the digital public sphere.

The networks of state funding and private sponsorship, moreover, fail to prioritise the circumstances and experiences of concert-goers. Instead of audiences, marketing cultivates consumers.

The question of the accessibility of the arts is deeply intertwined with education. The wider government attitude towards culture is that it has little inherent value, with it being stressed, for example, that museum visits are irrelevant to GCSE outcomes,while the numbers of A Level students taking music has halved since 2010. The lack of support, including but not limited to financial support, for children to engage in arts and culture necessarily means that careers in orchestral music and the arts more widely will become possibilities for ever narrowing numbers of people – even before we consider the effects of precarity on musicians, further limiting careers, particularly to those with the resources to survive long periods of unemployment. Even before the pandemic only 18.2% of music , performing and visual arts workers were from working class backgrounds. The unrelenting marketisation of culture has no motivation to meaningfully accommodate those who have harder barriers of entry, or challenge the concentration of cultural capital in the realms of the elite.

That it is only now having considered the wider framework of arts in Britain, that we can consider the conditions of workers, is, of course, telling of the current priorities. The secondary round of the CRF that arrived in March 2021 saw the same guiding principles as the first, with the lack of support for workers continuing and the effects of this neglect intensified. The government has signalled that there will be no wider relief that would ever hope to begin to address the scale of the loss of livelihoods. With nearly 3 million freelance workers unable to claim furlough or SEISS each month by November 2020, no further support for them was announced in the following March’s budget, despite £408 million going to venues and galleries. The funding figures, by themselves, moreover, tell us little about the workplace cultures of those organisations subject to cuts. As Salome Wagaine has outlined for Exeunt Magazine, the standard working practices of venues failed to adequately prepare staff for mass redundancies that totalled up to 39% of theatre workers being let go in 2020 when furlough failed to plug the gaps and extensions to the CJRS were uncertain. Redundancies took place via Zoom calls when workers were distressed and isolated in their homes. With the National Theatre front-of-house team finding out they had been fired via Twitter, and cases of hidden redundancies made via offering higher payouts to those that left voluntarily, Wagaine concludes that with so many workers leaving the industry altogether, arts organisations will be forced to reassess their attractiveness to workers in the future: “after the events of the past year, theatre workers won’t settle for being just grateful to have a contract in the same way as before.” With the announcement in November 2021 of the final recipients of third and final round of the Cultural Recovery Fund, coming to a total of £107 million between 925 organisations, compared to the £1.2 billion of the previous two rounds, arts workers are still definitively left at the mercy of the institutions.

These existing cracks within arts organisations are clear to see when considering the precarity of the sector at large and the lack of accountability to anyone except the state and big capital of those senior leadership and board positions that leave workers open to exploitation. For disabled workers in the music industry the picture is worse: nearly 1 in 5 reported that their employer had not made reasonable adjustments for them, while over half also reported that they also faced discrimination on the grounds of age, gender, or socio-economic background. While many organisations pin their hopes on Diversity and Inclusion schemes and data-led responses in identifying failures, mapping demographics and targets to approach the inequality in their practices, the solutions to issues of discrimination are often delegated to relatively smaller community outreach and education departments. According to The Big Freelance Report:

…there are worrying weaknesses in the way that data on inclusion is currently captured and reported. An organisation can convene a week-long talent development scheme and report each black, Asian, deaf or disabled participant in the same metric as if they had been given a main house show.

The need to chase quick fixes to deep structural problems of disproportionately vulnerable groups in a deeply unbalanced field is made apparent. Self-preservation manifests as outwardly progressive course-corrections that favour the arts institution as worthy of keeping a place in a sector governed by self-determined, socially liberal expectations, papering over their own failures and enforcing the relations of freelance and low-paid work that have created the economic preconditions of vulnerability.

In terms of challenging the problems of the sector, many musicians are part of the Musicians Union and will put down their instruments the minute their rehearsal hours end, but admin staff working for venues and performing organisations, who are regularly expected to work unpaid overtime, are in dire need of an equivalent. The Royal Albert Hall has been a field of many battles in the post-referendum culture wars, as we have seen with the posturing of nationalistic indignation over Rule, Brittania and a singer in a Raymond Gubbay concert wearing an EU dress in March 2019. Meanwhile, the venue’s workers have been denied a union despite efforts being made since 2014, with bosses insisting that regular staff forums serve the same purpose. While these workers struggle to be heard, plenty of famous names can raise public outcry over the livelihoods of musicians and artists and reach the headlines in objection to the newly-imposed limitations of Brexit that leave “a gaping hole where the promised free movement for musicians should be.” Although it highlights the significant disruption to income gained through touring that the government has failed to compensate for, this campaign over one aspect of Brexit treated it as though it were a unique aberration to the security and stability of musicians. It signalled that the powerful and influential in the world of the arts will advocate against stricter border policies only when the market logic of touring music when its export and profit comes under threat. It is perhaps fitting then that this impulse within the industry to defend the existing relations of borders and migration with the rest of Europe is often expressed in protests with the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Often hailed as the pinnacle of liberal humanism, it is the orchestral crown on the head of the Eurocentric conception of freedom - the final triumph of free market democracy that the UK is doomed without. As Fielding Hope notes, the self-appointed leaders of the arts industries advocate for free movement in terms of regaining access and assimilating into the European Union as a bordered entity that kills many migrants trying to reach it, with its benefits reserved those already within it.

Sadly, much of the mainstream challenge to the way in which the arts have been treated by the government tends to rely on making arguments within the existing hegemonic framework of priorities: the employment of market logic to defend the arts industries’ ability to meet the profit motive serves only to obscure the value of arts itself. The Public Campaign for the Arts, while speaking out and organising against many governmental offences directed against arts funding and investment, embraces the “public-private partnership”, which has defined the value of the artistic pursuits through their ability to “[drive] innovation and entrepreneurship”, through which “social lives and community cohesion” is a secondary, fortunate consequence. This articulation of a logic that defines creative and artistic production in terms of commodification, fertile ground growing green shoots in which to invest is nothing short of dangerous – a total assimilation into (and dependency on) the marketisation of the arts for survival with the same cultural logic that has caused the very crisis it finds itself in.

With nothing resembling a socialist alternative being tolerated by the present political apparatus, how can we begin to conceive of an alternative to the current systems that place the production of art and culture firmly in the spheres of the private, the wealthy and the institutional? Various people, communities and organisations have independently explored better models of supporting and sustaining artists outside of the dominant institutional methods and logics of survival. Arts Emergency provides mentoring for young people who come from typically disadvantaged backgrounds and lack the usual connections that benefit many of those who do get into the sector, with a conscious awareness of the need for social justice over social mobility. through the noise’s model of funding for its noisenights events is based on crowdfunding, with each live classical concert being made possible by those who wish to attend if the target is reached two weeks beforehand. Numerous other sources of funding for artists outside of the Arts Council are there to be found, as has been compiled by Beth Sitek and Samuel C Dunstan, ranging from national to local funding schemes and new opportunities for Black and Queer creatives. While the current situation may appear bleak, arts communities are resilient in their belief that art can and should exist for its own sake (and exist for its own sake for everyone, not only those privileged enough not to be restricted).

Calls for those within the arts world to ‘Save the Arts’ cannot become a restriction to call for a restoration of pre-pandemic systems, tendencies and structures of organisation that made up the fragile ecosystem of the arts, determined by profit viability, investor confidence and the dividing lines of government and council budgets. Those working in the arts must accept a hard truth: neoliberalism will not, or ever, come to their rescue. State-enforced capitalism will chip away at the freedom of individuals to fully realise their artistic potential until there is an alternative to save it. Until then, one thing arts organisations can do is to stop pandering to the powerful who wish to see fires of creativity, subversion and critical thinking stamped out. All those who perform and create art deserve better than mere survival.

  1. Although ENO has now been given the funding to continue operating in London for another year, they are still facing huge uncertainty and their scheduled performances remain compromised. The additional funding, a deferral of ENO’s future relocation, is, from their perspective, still leaving them to face a wholesale uprooting against their will after a judgement handed down to them from above, and they have been refused a coherent explanation as to why it is happening at all. Without a guaranteed future, this intervention serves to perpetuate an anxiety that weakens ENO’s creative agency and direction. 


Tim J L (@amanoutoftim)

Tim is an autistic musician, photographer and occasional writer living in London, who is most interested in performance arts, tabletop RPGs and petting his large cat.