I've been truly shocked by the hatred towards artists being expressed over at the Guardian blog by Peter Hewitt. I've left the following comment. I would really urge you to get over there and have your say if you feel the same. I would imagine it's a thread being read by all sorts of influential people.
"What this whole thread has revealed for me is that the most pressing issue seems to be in getting across to the general public what it is we artists actually do. The hostility here to 'my money' being used to fund 'lazy artists' is on a par with some of the tabloid debates about 'our money' 'our jobs' and 'filthy immigrants'. This level of bitterness and resentment is only ever borne out of ignorance of the facts, but is no less shocking for it. It should be a clarion call to Peter Hewitt and all those in the creative industries that, alongside campaigning against cuts, we also urgently need to explain in far greater detail what it is we actually do, and why it is important.
I'm a self-employed professional playwright, and besides writing scripts every hour of the day I also have to effectively set myself up as a small business. I spend much of my time working like an investigative journalist, interrogating the world around me through interviews, field trips and endless reading and other specialist research, to allow me to bring to the stage areas of human experience of utter orginality. This is my side of the bargain - I feel very strongly that if my commission fee is from the subsidised sector then I have a duty to bring to the table unique investigations into subjects of collective importance which I think as a society we should be giving time and headspace to. I don't write self-indulgent plays about my own life and love affairs for exactly this reason. So far I've done plays about social workers, religious gang conflicts among teenagers, missing persons and identity fraud, plus I'm working on new plays about the looting of the Iraq Museum, and another on hoodie culture and middle class fear. I then package all this up into a well-structured story, garnish it with crackling dialogue, and pitch it at a theatre to whose audience I think it will be relevant, important, and gripping.
I've worked long and hard over many years, and endured many knockbacks, before i got where I am today. I'm not from a wealthy family, or one with theatre industry connections, I went to an ordinary state school and did the rest myself. I put far more hours into my work that anyone in a 9-5 job. All artists, if they are to survive, have this same entrepreneurial spirit. There are plenty of government tax breaks and incentives for small businesses but you don't hear the same prejudice and rage spewed at self-employed plumbers, or furniture makers, or greengrocers. Why? Because people know what it is they do, because the mechanics of their trade are on display, and because their product is a tangible material thing.
The arts, by contrast, remain this mysterious elitist bubble where the product is created by somehow 'loafing around' and then only lasts for the 30 performances it is on, and because it is made up of ideas and images can't then be turned over in the palm of the hand and quantified. It doesn't matter that we might move people, change perceptions, shed light on areas of human existence hitherto shrouded by prejudice, or crystallise truth into simple beautiful forms, because if you can't see and hold it then for many people it simply isn't there and therefore isn't valuable. This is simply wrong. It's like saying that philosophy or political science or economics haven't given the world anything. Thinking and then creating is what human beings do. It's what sets us apart from the animals.
There has always been a mistrust of abstraction and intellectualism in the pragmatic UK (compared to the embracing of philosophers and artists in continental Europe). This isn't always bad - as Jeremy Paxman pointed out in his book The English, it has saved us from Communism and it has saved us from Fascism. But let's not allow it to scupper one of the world's most enterprising and self-sufficient hubs of human endeavour and originality. Not everyone may want to think about the world around them, and that's their loss. But for those of us who do, artists and non-artists alike, it's time to start explaining how we do it, and why its important in a society which cares about itself."