Friday, 22 April 2016

Art for the sake of the people

The question that really threw me at the Neath hustings the other week came right at the end of the session. It was not just that "the arts" was so out of context with what had gone before but also because politics and the arts don't sit well together as far as I'm concerned. George Orwell once described poetry on BBC radio as sounding "like the Muses in striped trousers"; government involving itself in the arts conjures up visions of a ballet performed in suits and bowler hats.

On reflection, though, it is possible to distinguish between politicians steering (or even dictating) content and enabling artists to express themselves as they wish. Making sure that institutions such as our theatres, concert halls and museum buildings are maintained is surely a public duty, one that is not down to central government alone but also to local authorities. It seems strange that at a time when Labour in government wants to create super-authorities, Labour-controlled councils round Swansea Bay want finally to split up the collaborative West Glamorgan Youth Music service.

Anyway, the Welsh Liberal Democrats do have an arts policy, as laid out by Peter Black on Radio Wales' Arts Show alongside other party representatives (except for UKIP's). It is slim, consisting mainly of building up an endowment to enable the arts to thrive without having to rely on the vagaries of the Welsh Government's annual budget horse-trading, but that is probably as it should be.

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