Touch the Heart, Not the Head
There is this big scheme in England initiated by Arts Council England called:
The Arts Council explain on their website what their aims and objectives are for this scheme
“The Arts Council wants more people to experience and be inspired by the arts, irrespective of where they live or their social, educational or financial circumstances.
The Creative people and places fund will focus our investment in parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average, with the aim of increasing the likelihood of participation.
Excellence will be central to the activity we support and although funding can only be guaranteed for three years, we would like to see applications which carry a 10-year vision for these communities.”
A noble ambition – a great opportunity, maybe, for people who have little access to the arts or who don’t believe that the arts are important or relevant to them.
But, in my opinion, it is a scheme that could go terribly wrong. I believe it could alienate the very people the scheme aims to involve – if it is not organised in the right way.
Local authorities all over the country are cutting back on the arts.
In the ‘Age of Austerity’ the arts are regarded by some councils as a luxury that cannot be afforded.
“If we have to make choices” they say “we need to support front line services that help children, the poor, the people with special needs etc”.
The arts community has not been able to persuade these local authorities that the arts are themselves a crucial public service that help people to live richer lives – that contributes to the education, well being, health, self esteem of people or, as Baroness Joan Bakewell described in a recent debate in the House of Lords, as the ‘profound rewards of the arts’.
She spoke of the how ‘the arts teach us what it is to be human, to know ourselves and to know others’.
It seems to me that there is a difference of opinion here, that is crucial to overcome, if the Creative People Creative Places scheme is going to work.
The debate on ‘are the arts useful, are they important to society’ needs to broaden.
I don’t believe we are going to convince those that doubt the power of the arts to embrace them, unless we are able to touch them emotionally.
Intellectual debate has so far failed. We, who believe the arts are important, need to change our tactics. We need to make the doubters feel the power of the arts, help them experience their own life changing moments so that they recognise inside themselves that transformation is possible for everybody.
How are we going to achieve that? I believe we will not achieve it if our first step is sending drama or dance workers into community halls to give them taster sessions or by organising artist in residence schemes in poorer areas of the community. I don’t believe that this will make any difference.
The arts community has to inspire, has to make people gasp, has to ‘take their breath away’.
All the good will in the world with not change deep set attitudes – what will change attitudes is experiencing something so profound, so meaningful, so ambitious, so electric, so beautiful that it touches the hearts of people – the spirit inside people – the heart – not the mind, not the head, not the brain but the heart.
What are these projects? Here are a few examples of some that have touched my heart.
1. The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics
2. NVA – ‘The Speed of Light’
3. The Rio Carnival
4. ‘The Ship’ (Glasgow City of Culture 1990)
5. ‘Witch’s Blood’ (Dundee)
6. Welfare State International
7 Peter Brook in Africa
8 Robert Lepage ‘Seven Streams of the River Oto’
9 Pina Bausch, ‘Kontakthof’,
10 Alain Platel/Arne Sierens, ‘Bernadetje’
What are the projects that have touched your heart?
Please share them