John Tusa / Visual Culture

A ‘Pain in the Arts’ Manifesto

As we publish John Tusa’s Pain in the Arts, we want to know: what is the arts policy you dare not put into words?

Pain in the Arts

As the world of arts and culture in Britain moves towards the midpoint of the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is beyond argument that it will suffer pain – for some organisations severe, perhaps terminal pain. For many, perhaps most, there will be the prospect of severe retrenchment or reorganisation. For all, large or small, metropolitan or regional, the question of responding to adversity is larger and more complex; even its actual nature and exact outlines are difficult to sketch. Clearly, times will be hard until at least 2018, in what is an increasing time of ‘Pain in the Arts’.

Publishing today, John Tusa’s Pain in the Arts argues why the arts are worth speaking up for. Addressing the controversies in the arts that must be resolved today: should they be useful before they are excellent? Can they ever turn their backs on the past if they are to be creative in the present? Pain in the Arts offers guidance on how the arts can survive in a downturn and why they should always make the case that they deserve special treatment.

Setting to one side the routine preoccupations of the arts world and launching off into realms of imagination and fantasy about arts policy, John Tusa here has drawn up an arts policy for an imaginary new state, making good all the shortcomings, evasions and contradictions that have accrued over the years in all government arts policies (it is deliberately ambitious):

The ‘Pain in the Arts’ Manifesto

  • No child will be denied a full education in the arts.
  • Every child will be read to each night.
  • Every school day will start by singing songs together, hymns if they wish.
  • Every child and young person will be able to learn a musical instrument to the stage where he or she can – if he or she wishes – play in public or with others in private.
  • Every education establishment will base its teaching on the knowledge and belief that the arts benefit learning.
  • No child or young person will be told that ‘the arts are not for you’. The arts belong to everyone.
  • Every child will have the opportunity to look, learn, listen and make.
  • Every pupil will learn about the historic traditions on which contemporary arts practice is based.
  • Every teacher will be qualified to communicate enthusiasm for and knowledge of more than one art form.
  • No school or educational establishment will divide its teaching into either the sciences or the humanities. There is only One Culture and each reinforces the other.
  • Every child will have time in the curriculum to do nothing and learn how to be bored.
  • All higher education and all arts venues will integrate their learning and performance activities.
  • All government policy will be based on the assumption that healthy and vibrant communities are centred around the arts.
  • All government policy will address education and the arts in the same department.
  • No government will regard the arts and education as the mere workhorses of business and commerce.
  • No government will tell education and the arts that they should be ‘like businesses’ or even ‘more businesslike’. All governments will acknowledge that the arts and education run themselves in ways that are relevant for their disciplines.
  • All arts organisations will accept full responsibility for running themselves efficiently and effectively.
  • Every arts organisation will have one or more representative from business on their governing board. Every company will have one or more representatives from the arts and education on their governing board.
  • Government will set a strict cap on how much arts organisations can spend on management consultants.
  • No arts organisation will set out its aims and priorities in PowerPoint presentations which consist of bullet points only and exist without verbs, complete sentences or full stops.
  • No arts organisation will use in its Vision or Mission Statement words such as ‘excellent’, ‘passionate’, ‘leading’ or ‘world-class’, or any other word, phrase or notion derived from management speak.
  • No arts or education establishment will regard, treat, deal with or otherwise think of its audiences or students as ‘customers’.
  • Every arts and education body will officially proclaim and announce that its activities are fundamentally and intentionally useless. They will ignore and disregard any request or demand to demonstrate that they are useful before they are valuable or that they have measurable ‘impact’.
  • Government will declare that the true impact of intellectual and academic research and the pursuit of curious enquiry may not add immediately to the national economy but will contribute to national understanding.
  • No arts body will be funded if it declares its aims and purposes to be primarily instrumental.
  • Arts and education bodies will not be asked to demonstrate the ‘relevance’ of what they do as a condition of funding.
  • Every elected representative will spend at least one night per week at an arts event or performance of some kind.
  • No prime minister will avoid attendance at arts events on the grounds that he or she might court unpopularity by doing so. On the contrary, he or she will earn it.
  • No prime minister will attempt to court voter popularity by claiming to like current pop groups when in truth he or she does not listen to them.
  • Any prime ministerial contender may like and enjoy football if he or she chooses. But it will not be a condition of his or her selection for high office.
  • Every government will ensure that those who give money or objects to the arts in their lifetime receive the benefit of tax concessions in their lifetime.
  • No minister will refer to the arts as ‘elitist’, ‘irrelevant’, or merely ‘nice to have’.
  • No Secretary of State for the arts shall be precluded from becoming prime minister.

What would your ideal arts policy be? What is the arts policy you dare not put into words? We would love to hear them, so join the debate and let us know in the comments or tweet as @ibtauris #PainintheArts.

Read the Sunday Times review of Pain in the Arts
Read the Independent‘s review of Pain in the Arts
Read John Tusa’s article on arts cuts in Comment is Free
Listen to John Tusa on Radio 4’s Front Row


Pain in the ArtsJohn Tusa is Chair of the Clore Leadership Programme in the arts, and author of our new book Pain in the Arts. His many senior positions in journalism and the arts include Managing Director of BBC World Service and of the Barbican Centre in London (1995-2007). Before moving into arts management, he was an award-winning BBC TV and radio journalist, most notably for BBC’s Newsnight. His books include Art Matters and Engaged with the Arts. John Tusa was knighted in 2003. The above manifesto was created as part of Tom Hartley’s ‘Nowhereisland’ project.
Image courtesy of Ewan Munro.

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