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Many years ago, as a fledgling writer, I was staying with a friend and her sister at a Paris apartment. At dinner, one evening, I was introduced to ‘Michelle’ a bus-driver – and very proud of her ‘practical’ occupation. She asked me what I did for a living and I replied ‘Writer.’ “Marginalle!” she spat through mouthfuls of food, followed by a rapid rant, in French, only some of which I understood, about the uselessness of art compared to the usefulness of good honest practical occupations, like hers.
“Madame” I said, “When you come home from driving your bus, at night – what do you do? Do you sometimes read a book?”
“Yes”
“An artist created that – Do you watch a Movie?”
“Yes”
“Many artists created that – Do you watch TV?
“Yes”
“Artists created those programmes – Do you ever go dancing?”
“Yes”
“That is an art, madame – play music?”
“Yes”
Need I go on? The point here is that there is very little – or nothing that we do, outside of the workaday, mundane world that was not created by an artist/artists. Art is not just a pleasurable diversion after the days important toil is ended or the classroom’s ‘important’
lessons have been learned. It is an essential – integral facet of all our lives and all of our experience. In fact, as soon as we begin to tell another about our workaday experiences, we are utilising the art of storytelling – we never give the bare facts – we embellish, create dialogue and sometimes fictionalise.
As to being a ‘soft subject’ we need only look at how art is utilised in politics (speeches – the art of rhetoric), propaganda in war and the pursuit of peace. It requires great cognitive skills, intuition and broad thinking to engage people in challenging the world around them, in creating a better world for themselves and future generations.
My art is writing plays. Plays that go to dark places, to emerge in the light. I have studied my craft, long and hard and utilised it for the good of society. A lot of my work addresses violence against women and children – a subject that many also believe is marginal. It isn’t and neither is art. If we can ‘experience’ another persons life through drama – we can live a little in their shoes – we can be better people because we widen our understanding of other people’s pain, joy. We develop empathy with our fellow human
beings. Without the arts we are nothing more that eating, working, sleeping – (physically and intellectually), drinking automatons.
These same Tories, who denigrate the arts, would jump at the chance to get their front row tickets to the ’The Opera’ and ‘The Ballet.’ It would seem that certain types of art are acceptable for certain people.
Art is, by its very nature ‘subversive.’ It questions the status-quo and is a force for positive change. Some people like the Staus-quo. Art enables us to think and question. Some people don’t like that at all!
Even if we refuse to access art of any kind and simply choose to sit after work in a quiet, darkened room, with only a scented candle for company – it is likely that an artist made that candle and put the scent in it. – So if like me you’d like to save the Arts for future generations sign and share this petition: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/michael-gove-stop-the-marginalisation-of-the-expressive-arts-in-education-policy

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