On Rishi Sunak
Here on Podcart, we’re not massive on editorials or opinion pieces. We let the music tell its story, we interview artists and we make Podcasts about music we like. However, the fact is that the vast majority of the artists we feature are not millionaires. In fact, if any of them are millionaires, they hide it very well. That’s because making a living in the arts is very difficult, global pandemic notwithstanding.
We’re not unrealistic, we realise that people are dying. People close to us have been hit hard by this awful, vindictive illness. Collectively, we were absolutely not ready for this. Many of us have lost our jobs, have been forced to take fewer hours, are having to work in potentially dangerous customer-facing roles or – if you’re lucky – you’re able to work from home. This obviously means the economy will have shrunk to some degree. With this in mind, Chancellor and somewhat DILF figure for people with Union Jack kitchenware Rishi Sunak has attacked the arts, saying that people who work in creative industries should consider retraining in another job.
Let’s be clear; this is ideological. It is ideological because not only do Conservatives (small or large C) not care about the arts, but there hasn’t been a good Toff entertainer since Oscar Wilde. Even then, Wilde was a wildly subversive satirist who was imprisoned for homosexuality, so he’s by no means a Tory poster-boy. It’s ideological because nowadays, musicians, playwrights, poets, writers and dancers are the main source of actual political critiquing.
Our journalists are so close to the Government as to be prospective employees. Members of the press are taking advisory roles within the corridors of power. Scrutiny of government policy and ethics by the BBC extends to this (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-53463242) genuinely forensic and fascinating interview with uh… Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK. So many of us tuned in to the now infamous Dominic Cummings “confession”, just to watch Robert Peston and Laura Keunessberg lob soft balls at the most influential employee of the United Kingdom. Satire is dead; the recent Spitting Image isn’t blunt in its approach so much as it’s as floppy as the synthetic jowls on Boris Johnson’s puppet. Have I Got News For You has laundered the reputations of fascists. When was the last time you watched Mock The Week?
So the only real criticism of government policy in mainstream culture comes from the arts. It comes from incendiary performances like Stormzy and Dave on the Brit Awards. It comes from the touring artists who have lost work in this awful year. It comes from – whether you like it or don’t, and I’m willing to say I don’t – the resurgence of content-laden ‘punk’. Even more vitally, it comes from small venues, artists paying for their own costs, making genuinely subversive and important art. That’s because in the modern, neoliberal West, art itself is subversive.
It doesn’t make sense on any economic level to quit your office job and write songs. It doesn’t. And thank fuck for that. The antidote to our staid, Pret A Manger dead high street culture are the songs we love and the people who make them. Buying £2000 worth of gear to make £50 a night on tour makes zero economic sense but we are richer for it. Working an office job to rehearse with your mates once a week is an act of defiance. If it was up to Rishi Sunak and his pals, the only artists we’d have left are Phil Collins (confirmed Tory) and Ed Sheeran (played a gig for David Cameron). And just because TV comedy is rubbish, it doesn’t mean you can’t go to see some folks who serve coffee telling amazing jokes at your local comedy club, or watch a play written and acted by people who, in the day time, are doing admin in a dead-end temp job.
Culture bridges communities. It forces people from a variety of backgrounds to share immense moments and ideas. Look at SQIFF in Glasgow, the Fringe Festival, Glasgow Film Festival, XpoNorth and all of the other brilliant multicultural, multi-discipline events in Scotland. These events amplify the voices of the underrepresented, if done correctly. If not, we get corporate music festivals full of white guys, with pints a tenner each. That’s its own, very laboured article.
The health benefits are equally important. Art gives a platform for people with mental health difficulties to express themselves in a meaningful way, and something to bond over for audiences. Amazing organisations like Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union provide the infrastructure (would a “real job” not have a trade union?) to support talented people from across race, sexuality and financial demographics. Art gives us laughter and tears, it opens doors for people who would be locked out at the gate from politics, journalism and finance sectors. It gives us materials for living. It gives us the aids to sleep, the strength to exist.
Rishi Sunak and his pale mates don’t want to fund the culture because the culture does not serve them. The culture sees the daily corruption, cronyism and incompetence and writes about it. It screams about it. It makes walk-through visual art displays listing the catastrophes. It creates opportunities for people who aren’t represented in politics. It allows the people who don’t get to bray wildly in the House of Commons to say something important. Of course, they don’t want to fund that. Learn something useful, idiot!
The point being? The point being: fuck this. Being an artist is a “viable” job to anyone who values art. It’s oft-repeated but those of us who have had a bit more time on our hands than we expected this year are constantly enjoying art: we’re putting playlists together, we’re listening to podcasts, we’re reading more books, whatever. If the reality of 2020 wasn’t grim enough for you, imagine it without entertainment made by people who weren’t born into wealth, put into the right school and given everything they could want on their way.
Sounds shite, doesn’t it?