22nd June, 2020

Debate of the Week

As a part of our Personal Development and Life Chances curriculum, the school is moving the debate topics which would normally presented in assemblies to a discussion group which can be used at home. Spend some time as a family debating the issue below.

Should government save the arts?

Live events have been extinguished by the pandemic. Festivals, theatres and museums are all struggling – but some are unwilling to save them.

An “artistic armageddon” wrote the Evening Standard’s Julian Glover. A “cultural catastrophe” said the head of the Creative Industries Federation.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the global economy. But few industries are as reliant on large crowds and enclosed spaces – factors that contribute to the spread of Covid-19 – as the arts.

The pandemic has led to the cancellation of countless events including Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe. Over 90% of independent festivals say they now face impossible costs and the prospect of imminent ruin.

According to a report in the Financial Times yesterday, UK revenues across the creative sector are predicted to drop by 30% in 2020, with more than 400,000 jobs set to be lost.

Many historic venues, including Shakespeare’s Globe, have turned to crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Just yesterday, 98 leading directors, actors and producers called on the government to rescue the ailing theatre sector, where 70% of jobs are at risk. In a letter, they wrote the sector was “on the brink of ruin.”

Playwright James Graham – who rose from working in local theatres to writing the recent TV hit Quiz – argues that any government funds should be seen as an “investment” and not a “bail out”.

After all, the arts generate a huge amount of money for the economy, from tourists attending West End plays, to teenagers attending festivals.

What’s more, as the performance artist Travis Alabanza wrote in the Metro: “Arts, culture and entertainment not only boosts the UK economy, but undoubtedly adds so much emotionally to the fabric of our society.”

Though the measures are yet to be seen, arts minister Oliver Dowden has promised to come to the rescue, saying “I will not see our world-leading arts and culture destroyed”.

But he faces resistance from those in government who believe that gigs and festivals right now aren’t nearly as important as hospitals and food banks.

If a piece of theatre, music or other creative work is good enough, they say, it will always pay for itself. As one analyst wrote: “England’s rich cultural tradition developed free of government funding.”

So, should government save the arts?


No, goes one argument. Culture that relies on government funding tends to produce niche work that goes ignored by most of the public. Truly great art challenges society and makes us question everything. State funding tends to stifle these qualities. Extraordinarily creative people will keep being creative regardless – money is not what drives them.
Of course! It is incontestable that culture benefits society. We learn from the arts; we heal through them. As the guardian of our society and civilisation, government has a huge responsibility to protect our culture. Throughout history many of our greatest artists, our most wonderful buildings, our music and our literature have all been made possible by grants from the state.