I had a chance to watch, Jeremy Corbyn, the new head of the Labour Party in Great Britain, deliver a talk about his proposal for an “Arts for Everyone” policy on YouTube today. I was deeply impressed by his commitment to the arts and humanities and his vision for how they are critical to our society. I have felt that humanities are essential to a healthy society for a long time, but many around me seem mystified by this idea. The assumption being that the arts and literature are meant only for those of means to enjoy when they have free time. For myself, it has seemed to most people around me that it was somehow a strategic mistake to have studied literature.
I think that perhaps we are for the first time in a long time entering an age with real leaders. Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders (for all his flaws) and Pope Francis seem to be sincere about their desire to move forward towards a better world without concern for their own power. I am not sure they will succeed, but that does not matter. After decades in which there were no such leaders, decades of choosing between one form of hypocrisy and another, this development is simply unprecedented in my lifetime. Granted the severity of the challenges we face, it is not a moment too soon.
Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on the occasion of the announcement of his “Arts for Everyone” policy proposal
“I am very proud that tonight we’re launching this policy document on the arts.
There is an artist in every one of us.
There is a poet in every one of us.
There is a novel in every one of us.
But unfortunately, because of the process of very elitist funding, because of the underfunding of local arts projects, the insufficiency of facilities in schools for music and other forms of creativity it gets snuffed out, ignored and forgotten.
If we don’t fund local theatre, if we don’t fund regional theatre, we don’t give those opportunities to young actors, then where are the West End actors of tomorrow? Where are the film actors of tomorrow?
Fully funding the arts council and encouraging the arts council to fairly distribute its money, not just to the national institutions, but to local theatre, regional theatre and local galleries is something that is very, very important.
I also think that there has to be direct funding into local government and it should be ringfenced so that local government has to spend it on promoting and supporting local culture and local entertainment ideas.
When you give everybody that opportunity to write, everybody that opportunity to discover themselves, give them that space, and as a society,
Don’t look down on poets!
Don’t look down on authors!
Don’t look down on painters!
Don’t look down on dancers
So that our theatres, our opera houses, and all our music establishments are open absolutely for everybody so that we can all enjoy the great creativity that is there in all of us.
And when you unleash all that creativity, you never know where you might end up. You might end up in a more equal society.”
The policy proposal can be found here.