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The last days of Cool Britannia?


This week on our Karr on Culture podcast: Will steep cuts to arts funding leave British culture reeling — or help usher in a new age of creativity?

Britain’s creative class has had it pretty good over the past few decades: government arts subsidies have built (and rebuilt) theaters, concert halls, and galleries. Subsidies to theatre and film organizations may have helped an estimated 80,000 Brits land jobs in Hollywood, where many play leading roles and bring home major awards. But now, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is threatening to slash arts subsidies by 40 percent. Martin Smith, former head of the Young Vic Theatre, worries that cuts of that order of magnitude would devastate artistic innovation. The Government hopes that donations from individuals and the corporate sector will make up some of the difference. But this summer, museums in London have been the targets of regular protests against one of Britain’s largest patrons of the arts, BP. Activist Kevin Smith of the anti-oil group Platform says cultural organizations should wean themselves from petroleum industry support. Not everyone things the situation’s bleak, though: London-based artist Alana Jelinek, who’s also done scholarly research into the effects of arts funding, says that art history demonstrates that tough financial times can lead to a boom in creativity. “I’m actually looking forward to the art we’ll see,” she says.