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This is why arts funding is important to everyone


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The importance of arts and culture funding has once again cropped up with Samuel West (Chair of The National Campaign for the Arts) writing a letter to the new new culture secretary Karen Bradley urging her to protect funding for the arts.

The letter was divided into five categories: national funding for the arts, local authority funding for the arts, arts in public education, new forms of funding and the impact of Brexit.

West wants to ensure that acting careers are not limited to those who have wealth and access to private education. He says: ''The combination of a squeeze on arts in the primary curriculum, a downgrading of arts subjects at GCSE level and increased fees at our top specialist training institutions may mean that a career in the arts without the benefit of a private education and significant financial support will become increasingly rare''.

West isn't the only big name to speak on this issue recently; Andrew Lloyd Webber commented on the issue following on from the launch of his new musical School of Rock.

"One of the things that is absolutely proven is that every penny you spend on the arts comes back to the chancellor of the exchequer three or four or even 10 and 20-fold,'' he said, ''why we keep cutting the arts in schools is completely beyond me.''

It's true the industry makes a lot of money - on average the West End alone brings in half a billion each year.

The wealth the arts can bring isn't the only benefit. As West detailed in his letter, drama as a subject is being degraded as it isn't seen as truly academic - but teaching arts doesn't just mean you're teaching an individual how to act or how to perform; you're teaching social and communication skills, tolerance and the ability to explore history and politics in a unique way.

Julian Fellows also commented, saying: "Music and drama enables kids to work together; it brings them out of themselves and allows them to develop - it doesn't matter if they are going to be professional musicians or actors, that is nothing to do with it.''

Theatre is infulenced by everything around us; it isn't just about learning some lines that some bloke wrote. It's learning about why these lines were written, what historical event may have influenced the writing, why the characters communicate the way they do and ultimately understanding emotion.

The life skills are of course transferrable to any career, but it's not only career growth that's important, it's personal growth as well.

This kind of development shouldn't be downgraded nor should the highest training and opportunities be limited to those who are very wealthy. Accreditted drama schools in the UK have astronomical fees, ranging from £9,000 to over £13,000 - these courses are full time and leave very little time for work. Some students won't even get enough student finance to cover their fees, never mind their living costs.

Actors may not be able to perform brain surgery, but why should an individual be unable to follow their true ambition based on the fact they're not as affluent as their peers? If we continue to only allow the most wealthy to train we may end up with actors who are all carbon-copies of one another, and we won't be able to enjoy the variety we have today.

As Fellows says, the funding isn't only about those who want to take the arts to a professional level - it's about those who enjoy participating at an amateur level but also those who enjoy watching theatre, live music, going to art galleries even those who enjoy watching film and television. It's about the play you watched that changed your opinion on something, it's about what you learnt from reading a poem, it's about how it can affect each individual

Arts and culture is a defining part of Britian and it should be protected and funded accordingly.

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