There is public acknowledgement that cuts are needed in the country to help the deficit, but with the arts budget only one percent of the NHS budget, the arts punch above their weight and support a massive industry. Many students on the MA Writing for Screen and Stage are hoping to write scripts for film, television and theatre in the UK, but with the cuts and announcement of the abolition of the UK Film Council, there is a worry as to whether they’ll have this opportunity. Dr. Valerie Kaneko-Lucas, programme director for LSFMP says that cutting the arts will demolish an important source of income for the UK, especially in a globalised world, and will deny a voice to young British talent. Her concerns are shared by many.
The UK Film Council is being abolished, at a time when revenues from British films contribute more than £4 billion to UK GDP, and for every £1 spent, £5 is generated. Does it make sense to abolish it, when the UK taxpayer will benefit from the economic growth the arts provide?
According to Dr. Kaneko-Lucas, emerging screenwriters may seek opportunities in other English-speaking nations like the United States and Canada instead. Scottish Screenwriting and Producing student Sarah, 18, says she is annoyed that the arts are not taken seriously, like other professions. She awaits the day her work is published and performed in the UK, but wonders whether this will happen in her own country, with what’s to come. But the cuts to the arts will still be continuing, long alter Sarah has graduated.
Hilary, 20, from the United States, who is studying BA Honours Creative Industries, says she isn’t worried about the cuts because unlike the UK, the US has not announced any cuts to its creative sector, which is still at the forefront of the American economy. If Britain, which is currently a world leader in the arts, loses overseas talent like Hillary because there is no work here, it can’t be good for our economy.
Only the other day, a non-arts student said, “At least theatres won’t be hit because they are private.” This is not true, because UK theatres rely heavily on government subsidy and already several in Wales have been axed by Arts Council Wales. With half a million UK public sector workers facing unemployment, the impact on theatre audiences will be devastating. As Dr. Kaneko-Lucas pointed out, people who go to the theatre are not just tourists, but locals, and for every £1 spent in the arts, £2 is returned, according to Arts Council England.
In addition, the freezing of the BBC television licence fee for at least three years, and the fact it will now have to pay for more services like BBC World out of it, may undermine the corporation’s ability to make programmes, a view shared by the British Actors’ Equity Association, the UK union for performers. Their current campaign, ‘Theatre Works – Don’t Wreck It!’ shows how strongly the association feels about the forthcoming government cuts.
Delroy, 30, a British student on the BA Honours Acting and Global Theatre says the cuts have made him become more political. A double worry for him is that cuts may prevent acting opportunities and if they do, he would want to teach drama. But, there might not be any teaching jobs, as prospective students won’t be able to afford the tuition fees. Not only might we be losing foreign talent, but future home-grown talent too.
Acting Foundation Course student Liam, 21, from the UK, spotted the advert for his course in the London Evening Standard newspaper. He didn’t want to commit to a three-year degree straight away, so the foundation course was ideal for him. Now he questions whether he will continue to study for a degree in the performing arts.
Even with the cuts, Regent’s College is committed to providing courses for the creative industries for many years to come, and the LSFMP Open Day in November 2010 demonstrated this with a good turnout. David Hanson, LSFMP head says that writers are always going to be needed, and while Government cuts may change the nature of funding, the script will always be at the heart of the industry. But without any money, there may not be a script.
The scenario could be like that faced by Iceland, where Helga, 21, on the BA Honours Screenwriting and Producing degree says that films have stopped being made. Instead, people go outside the country to make them. She understands the cuts, but they don’t make her any less sad.
The Writers’ Guild of Britain, which condemns the cuts, has also voiced its concern for the Public Lending Right agency, which pays authors six pence per loan when books are borrowed from public libraries, and is a notable casualty of the coalition government’s slaughter. There is talk that the PLR scheme will be transferred to Arts Council England Council England, along with the responsibility for film finance from the UK Film Council. This does not fill most writers and performers with confidence.
It’s too early to know if government cuts will affect institutions like LSFMP and future graduates, but it’s clear that they are going to be hard for all. We wouldn’t expect a student to study medicine for five years, only to knock down the local hospital. This is the equivalent for writing and performing arts students at LSFMP. If you want to let your voice be heard, sign up to ‘I Value The Arts,’ a national campaign for the arts, supported by many of the leading industry bodies, at www.ivaluethearts.org.uk.
Published by The Regent newspaper Winter 2010.
© 2010 Kevin Maxwell Media & Performance