Sunday, 18 November 2007

A question of culture

One thing that I've not yet seen discussed in the Lib Dem leadership election is the whole issue of culture. I think that's a shame, as I believe it is something on which we could have a fair amount to say. I think that as a party, we quite rightly stress that quality of life is at least as important as material wealth, although I don't know whether we always discuss what that means in practice.

One important area of quality of life is cultural activities. I am fortunate in that I am able to take part in quite a range of activities, such as going to museums and art galleries and to the theatre and concerts. Other people are not so fortunate, because of a lack of facilities, money, transport or education, or some combination of all of these.

I think we as a party need to do some serious thinking about culture and what we could or should do to support it. What role should the state (at a local or a national level) have in supporting cultural activities? How do we avoid cultural funding becoming a 'middle class subsidy'? Should funding for things like the arts just be left to commercial funding or the National Lottery, and if so, how can potentially controversial or unpopular cultural activities be supported - should they just be left to wither and die? How far does artistic freedom of expression extend? Should cultural funding support big institutions such as the Royal Opera House or the BBC or should it be more focused on grassroots activity? What should we do to encourage cultural activity in schools, especially considering the pressures on time and resources which the national curriculum entails? What role does culture have in social justice and tackling inequality?

I'd welcome any views on these subjects and I'll be interested to see whether either of the leadership candidates expresses any opinions on these issues.

1 comment:

The High Tory Troll said...

Before offering my views, I stress that I am unashamedly refering to 'high culture' in my comments. 'Culture' as a wider term can denote virtually any type of human activity (artistic or scientific, high or low) and so I'll pontificate only on the 'higher' end of the spectrum (and I appreciate that there's another debate thee about defining what that exactly is as well!)

I think that culture is something that remains fairly robust but it seems to be becoming an increasingly minority pursuit and I think its fair to say that government influences and societal attitudes over the last 40 years or so have contributed to this situation.

I could go on about this for hours but I'll make two suggestion. The first is to bring back 'high culture' for all people into education - just because someone is from a sink estate doesn't mean that they shouldn't be exposed to Shakespeare or Mozart - these are relevant, civilizing and ennobling influences.

On a more prosaic level - is it me or are most libraries nowadays pretty shit and bereft of the crowning glories of civilisation (yes I know there will be exceptions)? My background is working class and without access to literature and music at my local library when I was young I would be a poorer man today and I fear that many young people are indeed poorer as a result.

Liberal Democrat Blogs