There is nothing to be gained from copying everybody else. Over the past decade or two, Britain’s cultural industries have slowly morphed from an engine of distinctive, iconic, very British brands into little more than an echo chamber for graduate identitarians. Across Twitter, writers, actors and producers from every nook-and-cranny of the Arts are demanding enormous sums from the government to re-float their activity post-Corona. Perhaps, before the cheques are written, we should take a moment to consider what Global Britain’s cultural sector should look like.
Of course, television, radio, books and theatre are important. A thriving cultural landscape will naturally generate a broad range of work, reflecting a wide variety of backgrounds and attitudes. Yet, increasingly, as we scan through television listings or theatre programmes, only one set of views and tastes is being catered for. There is a certain irony in a sector, dominated by groupthink, which takes loud pleasure in diminishing and alienating Conservatives and Brexiteers now coming to a Conservative-Brexiteer government with the begging bowl.
We cannot continue to fund loss-making ‘arts’ projects whose sole purpose is to say how awful everything is.
There is a reason why shows such as Are You Being Served? or Keeping Up Appearances or Pride and Prejudice sell so well internationally. They reflect a Britain that is good-humoured and witty; a country which is at ease with itself. They are, in their way, a peep-hole into our national soul – and what the viewer finds, at home or abroad, is relaxed, charming, attractive, warm. They are not products which constantly seek to denigrate or to undermine. They do not imply a society which is either discontented or ashamed.
We cannot continue to fund loss-making “arts” projects whose sole purpose is to say how awful everything is. The average person does not regard this country as awful; indeed it is, by every conceivable metric, one of the most tolerant and open on the planet. We cannot allow ourselves to be reflected, as we re-enter the international arena, through the prism of dogmatic identity politics. We should not be using the state’s resources on amplifying an identitarian vision.
We are living through a tumultuous period. Even Harry Potter creator J K Rowling is not immune to ‘no-platforming’ (though congratulations to her agents and publishers who have set an important precedent by holding the line against the mob). It should not be possible, in a liberal, democratic culture, for militant left-wing groups to be able to ‘cancel’ a writer or actor because they disagree with them. At home, it fuels disharmony and frustration. To the rest of the world, it implies a rejection of the fundamental liberal values which form the foundation of our creative and artistic life. It’s time for some proper diversity of thought. We need to start seeing more Brexiteers represented in the Arts. More Conservatives. More genuine liberals. As part of the reboot, the identitarian left’s hegemony must end.
Our cultural heritage is strong. Our cultural present is, perhaps, less inspiring. Let’s take this opportunity to re-entrench the values which will ensure our cultural future is appealing, distinctive and accessible to all.
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