Last Tuesday on my little ledge, I lamented the fact that the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is to snaffle up the Royal Photographic Society collection from the National Media Museum in Bradford.
Since then the row over the photographs has intensified – and the museum has also abandoned the Bradford International Film Festival (cancelled last year and now gone for ever more).
This has led a local MP to criticise the “great and the good in London” for pushing ahead with these plans, and possibly changing the museum’s name to Science Museum North, without consulting anyone in Bradford.
Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, said: “I was shocked to learn that the decision to transfer the world-renowned Royal Photographic Society collection, the abandoning of the international film festival and the move to rename the museum were all made over 200 miles away in London.”
As I mentioned last week, the National Media Museum has said it will now “focus on the science, technology and culture of light and sound and will retain material relevant to that”. And good luck trying to sell that one to the puzzled punters of Bradford.
London has, as I lamented here last week, too much cultural clout already. This view is not uncommon among those of us who live some distance from the capital, and now it is echoed in a report called A Policy for the Arts and Culture in England – The Next Steps?
According to The Stage newspaper, this report is intended to influence the government’s new white paper on culture, expected later this year. The intro to the Stage story says it all really: “Organisations in London receive almost twice as much arts funding as the rest of England combined, despite accounting for just a third of the country’s cultural offering.”
In other words, London gets more of everything than everywhere else, which is as many of us have always feared. This Next Steps report also reveals that the average London organisation receives £2.1 million, compared with £495,000 for those outside the capital. Again according to The Stage, “the authors of the report claim the imbalance between London and the regions is ‘static’ and shows little sign of change”.
Among the findings in the report was the claim that Londoners receive £65.10 per head for the arts organisations in the capital, while the rate per head outside of London was £4.91 – which I reckon must be about the price of a pint in one of London’s more ‘reasonably priced’ pubs.
A capital city will always receive a greater weight of funding, a bigger slice of everything – but the regions should not be forgotten. After all, you can’t fuel the cultural wing of a northern powerhouse on crumbs.
Incidentally, while we are in the artsy arena, the education secretary Nicky Morgan is always saying with one breath that the government doesn’t undervalue the arts in schools, then adding with the other that pupils should shun the humanities and study science, technology, engineering and maths.
Surely a better education system would encourage children to do both – to study the technical subjects alongside the arts. For if you take a broad definition – literature and theatre, dance and music, cinema and computer games, television and social media – the arts are a huge earner in this country.
And aside from that narrow monetary focus, it is just better if people know as much about everything as possible, and sometimes and interest in the arts can really lift up a life.