Friday, April 17, 2009

A Bunch Of Bastards

Big Government art is still with us

According to Michael Lynch, the departing head of London's expensively refurbished Southbank Centre, the private sector hasn't donated nearly enough to fund his arts empire:

"Corporate Britain had in my view let down the side. They need a sense of values.”
Apparently, none of those gzillionaire Goldmans' bankers has given "anything meaningful", and he describes them as a "bunch of bastards".

Arts, you see, are A Public Good, and rich bastards have a civic duty to dig deep in their support. Everyone knows that. Just like they know that art is what the artist says it is, not what the customer says.

So it's no good Goldman bankers whining that they don't support the Southbank Centre because they think it produces a load of tosh in which they don't have the faintest interest. Philistinism (aka customer choice) is no excuse.

And it's no good them saying that they don't like the Southbank Centre's lefty employees and lefty agenda (the Centre was literally the creation of New Jerusalem Big Government for Attlee's Festival of Britain in 1951).

They have a public duty to support the arts.

The other day I heard some BBC bureaucrat - possibly the head of radio comedy - attempting to explain why BBC radio comedians are all leftwing. She said she'd love to find some rightwing comedians for her shows, but didn't know any funny ones. Apparently she believes the leftwing comedians on her shows are funny.

But are rightwing comedians irredeemably dire? Try this topical joke from Jim Davidson:
"The North Koreans have just launched a satellite round the earth. They say it's beaming back revolutionary songs... songs like the old Bowie number [sings] - Glound contlol to Kim Jong Il."
Tittering? Even if you are, you can be sure Davidson would never get the chance to air it on R4. The controller of radio comedy would think it deeply offensive to all Koleans and everyone else from east Asia.

Except it was actually a joke on last week's BBC R4 Now Show, a show so packed with the usual suspect BBC lefties, it even includes the lamentable Marcus Brigstock (and if he rates any higher on the Laughometer than Jim Davidson, I'll eat my tickling stick).

The fact is that state funded arts - be they promoted by the Southbank Centre or the BBC - are always going to pursue a Big Government agenda. They can't help themselves - artists know who pays their wages, and the controlling bureaucrats are effectively civil servants (see many previous posts eg here and here).

It's therefore entirely unsuprising that wedged bankers find such organisations unappealing, and don't want to fund them (yes, we know many bankers are currently civil servants too, but that's not their mindset).

How then did the Southbank manage to fund its costly refurbishment?

According to Lynch, “the Government, to their credit, got behind us in a big way”.

Well, that was awfully sweet of them, but - and this may be news to Mr L - the government doesn't actually have any money. In reality, once again, it was we poor schmucks who paid.

How much?

Precise details are sketchy, but we know the refurb cost £111m. And the vast bulk of that came from taxpayers (either direct from the Arts Council or the Lottery). In addition to that, the Centre is receiving a £20m a year tax-funded subsidy towards its running costs.

There are certainly some bastards involved in this, but I fancy they're not working at Goldmans.

PS Just as a reminder, we spend c £600m pa on explicit arts subsidies. But that's in addition to the £3.5bn pa telly tax, much of which also gets channelled into "the arts". Let's hope George is a philistine.

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