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Carey Young

Henry Moore Institute
until 3 October
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Tessa Jowell Proclaims the Value of Complex Culture [updated 25/5/04]

In a pre Spending Review rallying call Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture has set out her vision of a better Britain, in an essay entitled "Government and the Value of Culture". This value she describes as "some deep landscape of personal resource".......

Poverty of aspiration must be tackled if a society of fairness and opportunity is to be built and this has to be effected across government, to quote "There is no point in my funding the Royal Opera House at one end if schools are not giving pupils the equipment to understand opera as an art form, therefore restricting future audiences to those who have the benefit of an elite education. ….. only by accepting that it is a child’s right to be given the means by which to engage with culture will we be able to move forward." Excellence and 'complexity' are at the heart of the argument. The essay concludes with a plea to the cultural sector to embrace the argument and work with Government to state the case and respond to the questions raised. Most notably that if culture is to be valued in its own terms how are these cultural outcomes to be expressed.? Reading between the lines how will accountability be exercised and other Government departments appeased for as a recent Institute of Public Policy Research document points out the £11.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help keep Raphael’s ‘Madonna of the Pinks’ in the UK, from the Treasury’s perspective is the price of more than 600 newly qualified nurses or teachers or prison officers.

To read Tessa Jowell’s essay click here; to find out more about theIPPR publication" For Arts Sake" click here.

David Edgar, writing in the The Guardian rightly draws attention to the side lining of art's provocative role in favour of one that cements and coheres:"Through much of the past 50 years, art has been properly concerned not to cement national identity but to question it. In that, it continued the great modernist project of ‘making strange’, of disrupting rather than confirming how we see the world and our place in it." This has always been a difficult one for government to tackle and perhaps shouldn’t, but its does have to acknowledge that art is not always happy and comforting but at its sharpest and most cogent, disruptive and outside the norm. David Edgar's article can be found by clicking here.