Not taking into consideration the vibrant visitors from overseas; whose participation at The Fringe broadens our fair Isle’s creative horizons and strengthens the increasingly fragile relationships we have with one another; The Fringe is a sanctuary for those seeking refuge from the monstrous treatment of the arts by Westminster.
We’ve all felt it; that crush like rats in a trap; the knowledge that those in charge look down on us and what we do. Five years ago, government funding for the arts was cut by a cataclysmic 29.6% and our cultural infrastructure has faced a torturous and continual dismemberment since. The arts are being systematically struck from the curriculum in favour of conveyor belt examination and a soulless whipping-in of emotionless fact. Self-expression and creative intelligence are no longer on the Government’s agenda. Despite the overwhelming evidence that our Cultural businesses are a huge contributor to our country’s financial security, we are still to be condemned:
Businesses in the arts and culture industry contribute an estimated £6 billion of gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy and yet theatre, television and bodies such as Arts Council England are expected to face some of the deepest cuts as part of the Tory plan to reduce the deficit. – (Matilda Battersby, The Independent, 08/05/2015)
What hope do we have? Where can we seek asylum?
Along The wintry Waters of Leith.
The Edinburgh Fringe started in the wake of World War II as a beacon for European solidarity. Today, our war, our solidarity, is a civil one. It is the war of Mindfulness vs. Negligence; Creation vs. Destruction; Art vs. Emptiness. Thank fuck for the Fringe! Participation is an event like The Fringe is a form of activism; an active engagement that rejects the sterilisation of our cultural landscape. It may not be pickets and megaphones, but the rest of the world will look on and we will remind them why the arts are worth defending. Lead by example.
The focus on art in education is yet another of our current Government’s arrogant blunders. They have deemed art a pretty pass-time, a pleasant distraction for the rich and the idle, and certainly not something worth actually ‘teaching’. As far as education is concerned, we may not have any sway with Nicky “stand-up-and-recite” Morgan, but we all know that the most valuable education happens as far from the classroom as is humanly possible. The educational value of an event like The Fringe is colossal. This hugely diverse, supportive and multicultural community teaches us about unification, understanding and society even before we consider the actual art itself. No subject is left unaddressed by the thousands of artists who descend on The Fringe, and these subjects are conveyed through every medium one can conceive. There is a wealth of thought-provoking productions for children, the angry, the lovers, the laughers, the intellects, the absurd, and everyone in between. We teach each other the lessons we have learnt. There is no better education than that.
As a nation, our emotional intelligence is poor. Although slightly dated, Forbes magazine published statistics in 2013 that highlight this:
The Gallup organization recently asked people around the globe whether they had experienced a set of ten different emotions on the previous day (five positive and five negative). The study’s results reported the percentage of people in each country who experienced all ten emotions. (Travis Bradberry, Forbes Website, 17/08/2013)
a pitiable 49% of us actually experienced these emotions on a daily basis and, although it is speculation, I cannot imagine we have got much better since 2013. Art stimulates the emotions (duh) and emotional integrity leads to a healthy and mindful existence. So march on, all you pilgrims, and lap it up! (and don’t forget to bring the kids!)
In the end, it’s all well and good whining about ill-treatment but what we need is a united front; a defiance in the face of civil extraction and there is no better place to make a stand than Scotland. The Referendum still resonates in Westminster. The disquiet writhes in the north and their attempt at great change can be our poster child. I can say with some conviction that, if Scotland were to strike out solo, it would make an immigrant out of me. In many ways, we already are. I feel ostracised; homeless in a country that has forsaken my profession. I am looking for somewhere to be … so I’m going to The Fringe.