Over the last five years there’s been a £82m cut in funding to Arts Council England, with further cuts proposed in the next spending review, leaving ACE to be asked to model some terrifying scenarios for their budget, most of which would see a round of irreversible and unprecedented damage to the cultural infrastructure of the UK. In the last round of NPO funding, we saw the closure of many important arts organisations, especially outside London, and we fear that this is only going to continue. In the last ACE briefing that outlined the potential scenarios, between 2017-18, 15% of cuts to ACE’s budget worth £75m were anticipated. Every arts organisation currently funded by Arts Council England can remember the feeling of holding their breath last year, waiting for the NPO decision to reach them.
Discussing why Culture Matters, this piece could very easily be a case study of FutureEverything’s reach, where we’ve been, who we’ve been there with, and what impact we’ve had, but we wanted to write this piece to tell you why we do the things we do, and why we’re not giving up the fight any time soon. Why the work we do, still, despite increased pressure on all aspects of our business as an arts organisation, ‘gets us out of bed in the morning’, 20 years into the life of the organisation.
The work we push forward, present, and thrust into the light is the work that helps us have a richer toolkit for the future, because the world is changing, and we must pay attention. Art gives us the opportunity to explore, play with, and pull apart the future worlds that await us, and test and rehearse living with them so we can figure out elements of what could happen next.
As ubiquitous, seamless, always-on technology is taking greater and greater hold of our lives, connecting us locally and globally, we need art to tell us where we might go wrong, and where we need to see the human, at the centre of it all. Culture can give us the ability to sculpt richer narratives and better interrogations of the technology and innovation as to have a better handle of it.
Over the past twenty years, the artists and performers that we’ve worked with have explored this territory with us. They have explored the opportunities for social media to act as surveillance in 2001 with Broken Channel, how we can use locative technology to explore our relationship to the devices we’ve become accustomed to in 2006 with Loca, played with notions of consent, social media and surveillance ahead of the Snowden revelations in 2013 with Chattr, and imagined a future world with City Fictions in 2014.
As an element of life, culture gives us colour, and often explores the things we can’t give words to. We’ve explored rhythm, time, space and the body with projects like Light Barrier by Kimchi and Chips and Simple Harmonic Motion for 16 Percussionists by Memo Akten, and found the benefit in creating these experiences. Culture can be something that reminds us that there is a depth and richness to the world around us – life need not be just work, money, and surviving (although art can be about all of those things).
Culture matters. But don’t just take our word for it, we decided to ask some of the people who make FutureEverything who we are as an organisation, our colleagues, about why culture matters to them.
“Culture encourages the questioning of what you think you know, allowing for new experiences to exist.” – Naomi Burgess, Producer
“Culture is inherent. It does not need to be earned, deserved or warranted – it is what makes us ‘us’ on a scale from the atomic to the universal. Providing identity and a place in the world, culture is one of the few things that every citizen has an innate right to experience and contribute to.” – Callum Kirkwood, Executive PA
“Culture is who we are, and what we do. Culture is the soil and the air that sustains. Culture is the flash of brilliance that inspires.” – Drew Hemment, Founder and Artistic Director
“Culture is a true expression of our lives; of our hopes and dreams; of our suffering and despair. While governments and the media divide us, the experiences and creativity shared through culture help bring us closer together.” – Michael Duffield, Projects Administrator
“Culture is language – it facilitates and encourages the free expression of ideas, and provides a positive platform for conversation. It breaks down societal barriers, and through novel methods of communication, playful interaction and demonstration, art and culture tackles complex issues and brings people together from across society.” – Simon Webbon, Communications and Programme Officer.
“Culture gives more people than we know the reason to live.” – Sarah Unwin, Assistant Producer
“Culture is a fundamental essence of shared human experience, and therefore, our humanity.” – Tom Higham, Executive Director
They are a pretty erudite bunch, aren’t they? So what can you do ahead of the spending review?
Write to your MP, tell them why cuts to the arts are damaging, for all of us, not just those who work in cultural institutions.
Stand with those fighting to stop the cuts. It’s not a matter of us all losing our jobs anymore, it’s a case of watching the slow dismantlement of a thing that gives a lot of us meaning without realising it.
We need all the tools we can get these days. As our friends 65daysofstatic said in their excellent blog post addressing the cuts, ‘…the world is ending. We’re gonna need some imaginative minds to be able to think our way out of extinction’.