The last few weeks’ Labour leadership campaign have been dominated by one thing, or, more precisely, one man. Yesterday, in an article penned for The State of The Arts, Jeremy Corbyn laid out his support for the creative industries. The article spoke about “art for everybody, not for the few”, a belief in the role of government “…alongside arts communities and entrepeneurs”, and the economic benefits as well as the “significant contribution to our communities, education, and democratic process” the arts make.
Corbyn’s ever increasing support has surprised many, not least many of those in the Labour Party. That he has tapped into something is undoubtable. The reaction posts like this receive on social media is a sign of that. Within hours, the post on Corbyn’s Facebook page and that of his campaign had been liked almost four and a half thousand times and shared more than fifteen hundred times.
Luminaries of the arts world have lined up to back his support for the arts. Film and television director Ken Loach said: “All who work in the performing arts will welcome these ideas. Jeremy Corbyn and his team recognise that artistic projects are much more than commerce. They enrich and nourish us all. This is an important statement — let’s all give it our support.”
Actress Maxine Peake added: “Jeremy’s policies on the Arts are the only way forward, to save and protect our wealth of arts and culture nationwide that, under our present government, are in serious threat of becoming extinct. We must never give away our ability to to create, to be heard to entertain, educate and tell our stories.”
And Comedian Josie Long said: “The arts in this country are something to be incredibly proud of. We need a government that values and supports them. We also need one that encourages people from all backgrounds to pursue them. Everyone deserves the chance to participate and experience art, not just those in wealthy areas or big cities and so local projects are vital. Arts education needs to be better funded, arts and culture make life worth living, they are a brilliant investment for a better society.”
A recent government report entitled Creative Industries 2015: Focus on Employment estimated that 1.9 million people work in creative occupations, a rise of 6.4 per cent on 2013, a growth rate of three times that in other sectors. In difficult times, the arts come into their own. Times of economic hardship often spawn creative reactions as ways of overcoming, as ways of explaining and communicating alternatives. Economic recovery is reliant, in no small way, on these creative industries.
Corbyn has shown again that he is able to speak to the frustrations of what is a considerably large and powerful group, particularly with regard to their desire for an alternative to the current narrative around austerity. Further, the mass of responses on social media show that the people who make up the creative industries, alongside those who enjoy and support their work, are a serious demographic.
After twenty or so years of relative disengagement from mainstream politics, it feels as if something in the creative industries is stirring. Corbyn’s article yesterday appeared to connect with that feeling. With it, he once again demonstrated a knack of speaking in a convincing manner to groups of people many of whom, it feels safe to assume, have in recent years found themselves disillusioned with mainstream British politics.