First of all, these faux policy documents are intended to swamp you. Just too much sales jargon, with little in the way of meticulously thought through methods of delivery. The full documents, with all their big community photographs, would be beyond digestible to most people, the summaries all fur coat and no nickers. So, bleary eyed, I focused down to the arts and culture, (with a wary eye on health) or, as so many of them refer to them, ‘the cultural industries’. (question to self - does this make me an industrialist?)
The Green Party manifesto was actually coherent and intelligent with great LGBT policy, but its references to culture and the arts were near nonexistent. Shame - in my heart, it feels it should be something they understand intrinsically. They suggest ‘Public support for the arts is part of a civilised society,’ but only go on to promise to ‘support initiatives the arts and sport accessible to all’. Other than working to support ‘fair pay’ in the arts - that’s about it, though their commitment to public health seems fair.
The Conservatives sandwiched ‘Heritage, Creativity and Sports’ coquettishly between the NHS and Big Society! Do they realise how visionary they could have been if they’d bridged the two? So near, and yet so very, very far. They inevitably lead the way in the language of commodifying culture and the arts, declaring, ‘the creative industries have become our fastest-growing economic sector, contributing nearly £77 billion to the UK economy – driven in part by the tax incentives for films, theatre, video games, animation and orchestras we introduced. Our support for the film industry has resulted in great British films and encouraged Hollywood’s finest to flock to the UK.’ Hey Ho - it’s all about the money (...and yes, I know there are mentions of Manchester in there - obviously).
Although it’s on the back page of its manifesto and may seem out of the loop to our North West community, Plaid Cymru give 2 pages to the arts and commit to access for all, young people’s acces to the arts and family participation in the arts. Their celebration of Welsh culture and identity is rich and central to their strategy. Again, the Scottish National Party whilst seeming distant from the NW, inevitably holds some power in the event of a hung parliament. At the time of writing this blog however, they were the only party not to have published their manifesto.
arts funding will be required to open up their doors to young people, and we will work with public bodies to rebalance arts funding across the country.
Labour do do something a little more solid, and balance the story of ‘economic innovation’ alongside the arts as being a ‘powerful force in social renewal’. But they offer a small nugget in a commitment to ‘create a Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with a membership drawn from all sectors and regions. The Committee will bring issues of concern direct to the attention of the Prime Minister.’ It’s early days, and this is of course a manifesto promise from a party in opposition, not in office. But if Labour are successful, the arts and health community must hold them to this promise and insure our agenda’s (plural) are heard, and acted on - not in some reductive, mono-cultural, geographically specific, prescriptive manner - but as a deeply rich movement, with cross-cutting potential across the political spectrum - less disease focused - and truly focused on the social determinants of health.
So, eight million people are from ethnic minorities in the UK and one makes it onto the pages of UKIP’s manifesto. I guess we should be reassured by our current senior ministers and the rich ethnic and gender balance of our Cabinet Office. Let’s have a peek eh? Of the 22 current Ministers, we have five women. Well that’s four more then when Mrs Thatcher was in power. OK maybe she let homophobic Janet Young have a seat at high table for a year, but my rather sordid namesake Cecil Parkinson, soon pushed her off it. Still, surely today's Cabinet must have a rich ethnic mix? Hmmm Secretary of Sate for Culture, Media and Sport and former Vice President at Chase Manhattan Bank, Sajid Javid. So that looks pretty much like 1 of 22 people. Oh dear. Still, we have Pickles in the cabinet - that’s one thing to be grateful of. (a pickle is a vegetable isn’t it?)
- artists and health professionals working together are being paid well for their endeavours
- a national/international body of evidence is freely available and constantly expanding
- we are a valued profession
- arts education from early years onwards is expanding and flourishing
- we will be providing free, enthusiastic support for each other through multi-sectoral events
- we have developed new research models
- culture will have escaped the clutch of pseudo-scientists and understand its value in its own terms
- the arts will be valued within their own rights, within health and social care and beyond slavish instrumentalism
- passion for the arts is nurtured in schools
- human experience will be valued alongside scientific evidence
- bridges between research organisations and communities will be commonplace
- we speak a rich and common language
- health and wellbeing are influenced by participation and engagement in cultural activity
- research is undertaken for deeper understanding of culture beyond blind financial justification
- wellbeing is understood in terms beyond selfish individualism and superficial happiness
- pessimism is not seen as a symptom of depression but a healthy response to injustices
- health doesn’t just happen in a clinical vacuum and culture and the arts don’t just happen in galleries and theatres
- we are a cultural and political movement