Monday, 23 August 2010

Arts funding cuts: almost certainly a genuine document about them

Memo - Strictly confidential
From: Conservative Press and PR office To: Jeremy Hunt, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Hi Jeremy,

As you may be aware, we recently had our blue-sky-thinking-outside-the-box away day. Cuts in arts funding haven’t gone down very well and the deptartment isn't very popular at the moment. So we put our best brains onto it (Tabitha and George the intern), and here’s our thoughts on how to sell the cuts as a positive force for good.

The key is to focus on innovation. Whenever people talk about cuts, gently remind them that artists thrive in difficult economic times. Where they say ‘disastrous loss of funding’, we say ‘opportunity to rebrand and repurpose.’ Here’s some stuff we brainstormed – think you’ll agree it's dynamite.

Theatre companies
Lots of opportunities here.

Verbatim: don’t bother with a writer.
Site specific: hold your show outside to cut down on rent, bills etc.
Community-based: get local people to act for free.

People have very short attention spans these days, so instead of novels, why not just write a blog? Or set up a twitter account? If you must write something longer, why not just print out and hand round photocopies at local library.

Haikus in, epic poetry out. Will save significantly on print and publishing costs.

Filmmakers: just source your stuff off Youtube. Honestly, there is nothing on there that doesn’t already exist. Or else film it on your iPhone. They’re very advanced these days.

Blue sky thinking action point: can we get BBC to take lead and film next series of Sherlock entirely on iPhone?

Apparently, ‘playing the spoons’ was big in the 50s. Can we encourage a revival? Spoons significantly cheaper than guitar/synthesiser-based music. Have sounded out Scouting for Girls people as possible early adopters. Cautiously optimistic.

Also, remind people of the Smiths

We did a kind of step-by-step chart for this, which might be helpful

People still seem to like the Smiths.
The Smiths made their music in the 80s.
The Conservatives were in power in the 80s.
(this is the clever bit!)
We can take full credit for providing the vibrant cultural environment that allowed this kind of music to thrive. We did it in then, and we’ll do it again!

Blue sky thinking action point: could we get ‘mass unemployment = great music’ to work as a slogan?

Gently remind artists that twitter and facebook are free. No reason why all marketing activities can’t be done on there.

You might want to run with one of these the next time they use your name as rhyming slang again. LOL!

Your PR gurus

P.s. When some addled hippy demands to know why we’re no longer funding their innovative parsnip sculptures, simply say: ‘Well at least we’re not taking the country to illegal war!’ (Checked this with the Foreign Office, no imminent plans to invade Iran, so you’re good to go for next few months at least.)

Sunday, 15 August 2010


There's a really nice park near where I used to live. It's a massive expanse of space, with a canal at the bottom, and an excellent cafe. I used to go jogging there. When I started out, I did 2 mins at a time, with about 5 mins walking inbetween. Eventually - very, very slowly - I got up to being able to run for 40 mins, or 5km. (The same thing, in case you're wondering. AKA incredibly slow. But still.)

I used to go to this park all the time. I walked round it with friends and put the world to rights. I pottered on my own and dreamed impossible dreams. I took a notebook and wrote.

I left my old house in a manner not of my choosing. And I've missed it for a really long time. So much so that I couldn't bring myself to go back to the area, even though it's really not that far from where I live now. I couldn't bring myself to go back to the park either. Because it reminded me of a time when I felt like anything was possible. And I haven't exactly felt that way for a little while.

I went back today. An impromptu visit on my bike. It was everything I remembered and more. I really enjoyed it. And it occured to me that it was in that very park that I wrote a little sketch that turned into my first ever script. The script got staged, remarkably enough. And I went on a writing course, and I kept writing and it felt really good.

I haven't wanted to write for the last few months. Not this blog, not anything. But I think maybe I can again.

This is a long way of saying that after the last few months hiatus I am, officially (ish) back.

And I will be writing things that are considerably less self-indulgent than this. I promise.