We vote for the arts!

NOW my guess is that this morning (if it’s Friday) or whenever you read this, you will be a bit fed up. Probably grumpy and tired because you stayed up much later than you intended to (don’t we all on election night) and you didn’t like what you saw. Chances are your party hasn’t won – because as I write, a couple of days before the vote, it looks unlikely that anyone will be claiming outright victory. So by the end of this weekend, the horse-trading will have begun and the only people actually happy will be the candidates who have either won or held on to their seats, against the predictions.

So we want to cheer you up – and what better way than with our first Festivals edition. We have been trawling around the programmes in print and online to see what delights the region’s various festivals have on offer, and we can safely promise you that (unless you are a puritan, a killjoy or someone for whom the idea of the arts and entertainment generally is less appealing than a dose of bromide washed down with a handful of road-salt) you will find something to look forward to.

Before I offer a few amuse-bouches to tempt you to read further on our performing arts pages, here’s a thought for the politicians, of all parties, looking to be in government or propping up a minority government or resigned to five years of trench warfare. Did you at any point in the long (and let’s face it, very boring) campaign ever think about the arts? We know that there are those who think there should be no public subsidies. Zero. Nada. Zilch. We know there are those who look embarrassed if anyone spots them going to the National Theatre or (even worse)  the Royal Opera House, whereas they will be all-selfied out if they are spotted at a football match. We know that there are enough rent-a-mouth anti-culture commentators out there to frighten them off any sort of support for anything beyond the most populist entertainment. We know that the corporate bullies who run the global and national media hate the arts because they have chosen to identify the people who work in this sector as left-leaning intellectuals, and there’s a terrifying prospect. (Not true of course – there are plenty of people in the arts who aren’t left or even particularly liberal – just talented).

But here’s what else we know. The arts – or “the creative industries” as they are known in politician-speak (hoping nobody actually understands what this meaningless weasel verbiage means) – are big business. They bring in millions (probably billions) of pounds to the national economy, hundreds of thousands of tourists not only to London, Bath and Stratford-on-Avon but to countless other locations, and they generate lots of cash for communities and regions.

And that is not to consider the incredibly important fact that the arts – taking part as a practising artist, performer or behind-the-scenes facilitator, or as an audience member, visitor, onlooker or participant – are good for us. They are good for our sense of ourselves, our appreciation of our community, our region and our nation, they put us in touch with our feelings and our empathy or sympathy for others, they help us to recognise and to celebrate our sense of place and they encourage us to look outside our own (often narrow) concerns.

Canon Giles Fraser wrote in The Guardian (oh, sorry – showing my left-leaning sympathies, aren’t I) at the weekend about politics and the arts and his feelings as he watched Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining On Buckingham at the National Theatre – “as politics becomes ever more homogenised and defensive, the arts should be one of the places to challenge the idea that our political and financial masters have a monopoly on what counts as established reality. … I realised how the politics of 1649 were so much more interesting and expansive than the dreary fare of 2015. It reminded me of something we used to call vision …”

So here are my tasty nibbles to send you off to find out more. Just plucking names and events at random, around the region … I Fagiolini, Seth Lakeman, Sir Willard White, Neil MacGregor, Imogen Cooper, Elvis Costello,  Sir Andras Schiff, Richard Thompson, Oysterband, Globe Theatre, David Starkey, Kaiser Chiefs, Professor Green, Pumeza Matshikiza, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Hugh Masekela and Shappi Khorsandi. There is opera in Iford Manor gardens, Shakespeare at Salisbury Cathedral, Beethoven at Bristol Old Vic, Robin Hood at Beaminster Manor and The Waterboys at Sherborne Castle. And the combined joys of beautiful countryside, unspoiled villages and fascinating artwork on the Wylye Valley Art Trail.

Take your pick and enjoy!

Fanny Charles