London is currently at a great crossroads with regards to its art culture. On the one hand, the city still holds its renounced reputation, but is it becoming too expensive for this reputation to sustain itself?
English playwright Simon Stephens has recently been quoted saying; “The amount of young directors, writers, actors I know who are moving to Cardiff, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester … I think London could become like Manhattan: a very beautiful, empty place”.
This issue is one that has been raised recently by the Tate director Nicholas Serota during an event for Labour’s candidate at an event for Labour Sadiq Khan at the beginning of 2016 prior to the mayoral elections. At the event, Khan discussed plans to support the art sector and promised to promote ‘a new age of philanthropy’
But will this resolve the problems addressed by Tate galleries director?
After all, one of the key aspects of the dying population of young artists is housing prices.
Whilst London is home to some of the top art schools in Europe, the city is too expensive for the young artists to remain there after their course. Sadiq Khan has recently pointed out that recent statistics demonstrate that more young people are moving out of London than any time since the records began. Aspiring artists are having to move further from the centre of London’s capital in order to find both places to live and places to work as many require large studio spaces in order to effectively create.
Whilst gentrification is an undoubtedly growing problem in London. There is an argument that there is still more funding for the arts in London than in any other city in the country. A large issue with the art industry internationally is its inaccessibility to the underprivileged; people from lower socio-economic classes are less likely to visit galleries and museums and jobs within the arts often require time spent doing unpaid internships. The art industry is unmistakably elitist, offering no guarantees of a steady income, therefore naturally discouraging those who cannot afford it from venturing into the industry.
In London an increasing number of schemes and opportunities are being created in order to bridge this gap; for example, the work done by the London Arts Council who run an ever growing Community Arts Investment Program. The council aims to provide art and culture to all, identifying the areas of the city that require the most funding and targeting them specifically, creating more opportunities for children and making art and culture organisations more resilient and sustainable.
Now, I am aware that I have only scratched the surface of a large issue, I do hope that this will open up the debate into its communal accessibility; how can London remain a leading city in the arts if over half of its population cannot access or hope to engage with it? England’s capital is in grave danger of losing its footing as one of the world’s artistic beacons. It will be interesting to see whether or not any of the initiatives promised by London’s new mayor will have a visible impact in the near future.
Watts, M. (2016) Cost of living is starving capital of working artists, says Tate boss. Available at: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/cost-of-living-is-starving-capital-of-working-artists-says-tate-boss-nicholas-serota-a3203506.html (Accessed: 18 October 2016).
(2015) Available at: http://www.artsjournal.com/2015/02/artists-are-fleeing-the-far-too-expensive-london-says-playwright.html (Accessed: 18 October 2016).