Excellence or economics?
According to reports in several newspapers this morning, our culture secretary, Maria Miller, is to give her first speech after eight months in the position. Here are some of the things she “will say” (assuming neither common sense nor embarrassment get the better of her):
British culture should be regarded as a “commodity” and as a “compelling product” for sale. The case for funding the arts must rest on economics: “In an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.” “We must demonstrate the healthy dividends that our investment [in the arts] continues to pay.”
And much more in that vein.
It is quite unnecessary to comment. These are points that should have been demolished in her school debating society, not aired as government policy. But one must wonder how on earth this country – home to the National Gallery, the Wigmore Hall and the National Theatre – has permitted such blatant philistinism to take over at the highest level.
Here is the full text of Maria Miller’s speech. Judge for yourselves whether the press’s summary was accurate. Apparently, according to Professor Mary Beard, Mrs Miller is unfamiliar with the collections in the British Museum.