Wednesday, 20 November 2013


I want you to imagine it’s the Olympics (again) in which there are two streams of competitor, A and B.
A are the real high flyers and B are what we’ll call average. It’s been noted that stream A are getting disproportionately more medals, faster times, greater attention from coaches and greater funding attention.
It has been decided this imbalance must be adjusted. So less attention is going to be spent on nourishing the potentially best talent and the less promising are going to be helped more. We’ll put our money on the guy in orange.

The result?  Whilst the number of medals won has gone down dramatically we have a great deal more 5th and 6th placed athletes. Which just goes to show that being fairer improves things for more people.
Rarely has a piece of work irritated me more than the recent report “Rebalancing our Cultural Capital”…. on three counts:
  1. Until I’d read it I would have broadly agreed with the proposition that the rest of the UK got a poor deal when it came to sharing out funds. London it could be argued was getting not just the cake but all the cherries too. But on reading it my mind was changed mainly because the argument was based on a basis of equity not quality, on spreading the butter over bread both fresh and stale and that won’t do.
  2. The argument that London is a population of 8.2 million is a little misleading. Add in tourists and it’s some 24 million. And they need adding in because tourism counts and that’s where the return on investment in the arts is irrefutable. It’s the quality of London that generates the tourist revenue (interestingly the most cited reason for tourists coming to London is going to the theatre).
  3. The rather careless use of data should concern us. Anyone indicating a calamitous trend in share of funds for the rest of England from ACE – from 19.6% in 1980 to 17.8% in 2012/13 – using a vertical axis going from 16.5% to 20% deserves to be rebuked. 
Simon Jenkins in the Standard praises London theatre saying “it rules the world” but adds a caveat a bit limply “The reality is that London is where ministers live and minsters look after their own”. Others have said “there may be a point of sorts here but it’s the same old hammer and the same old nail isn’t it”.


The more gold medals in artistic terms that London wins the better and the more inspiring a role model it is, or should become, and the more rewards are reaped by everyone.

But there’s a fourth reason I fell out with the report which is this. The story is not about how you cut the cake but how big the cake is in the first place. For successive governments to be embarrassed about the elitist nature of culture and the arts and accordingly give it small crumbs to spend – less than Financial Services used to get and about a quarter of what we spend on intelligence and spooks.

No you won’t find it below. Not important enough.  Under other.

To be fair it gets a bit more than the Statistics Authority which may seem unjust given how inspiring government statistics can be.

Ultimately, I think for little Britain to have the greatest city in the world thanks to a large extent to its brilliance in the arts and culture, vindicates the imbalance that exist and because of the celebration that creates it should make the less favoured rest of Britain lift their game too.

Written by Richard Hall and first published on the Business of Culture website

No comments: