Edinburgh Evening News Thursday 6th April 2017
Much as I have recently banged the drum for popular music being taken seriously as part of the arts and receiving funding that acknowledges that I’ve had a couple of conversations of late with folk older and far wise than myself who made a very good case as to why allocating funds in all walks of life has to be completely revamped.
These were people old enough to remember when there was no lottery funding and yet the arts still flourished and in fact some would say things were a lot healthier.
Even I’m old enough to remember when it cost £6,000 to make an album. A band had to go into a recording studio and that wasn’t cheap. There was no viable home recording equipment then. If lucky a friend might be a graphic designer but I can remember from the Avalanche label in the 80s and 90s the perils of not getting the artwork quite right.
Then with CDs you had to make a thousand and at very best would break even on your overall outlay. Four guys in a band would do part time bar jobs and work in restaurants on top of their day jobs just to raise that £1,500 each to go into the recording studio. Now of course things are so much easier and though it is no doubt harder to get people interested in new music despite the wonders of the internet there is still a real lack of urgency these days in most bands promotion of their music.
As I’ve discovered throughout the arts the obsession is with funding and the one thing funding is not based on is whether something is a good idea or whether “the art” is any good. Obviously there will always be a problem with subjectivity but now so many other factors come into play from what region you are in to whether you are considered to be from a minority group that should be supported.
What is not allowed for now is how rapidly information and education has become available to just about everybody via the internet. If some clever sod quotes from John Fowles and I don’t know who he is it takes me seconds to look him up on Wikipedia and find out he was “an English novelist of international stature, critically positioned between modernism and postmodernism.” You will need that later!
Now when I was a kid in the sixties I would have looked that up in the twelve volume Encyclopaedia Britannica we had and if not there it would be a trip to the library. We didn’t even have a phone so there was no “phone a friend option” either.
There are many quotes about how important culture is to society and they are not wrong. The thing is that knowledge to a large extent is now available to anybody who searches it out for free while for instance our National Health Service can only need more money as we all live longer and the costs associated with that escalate.
What these wise older folk were saying is that society needs to completely overhaul the way it looks at allocating funding of all types and from all sources be that to health, education, housing, the arts or all the other areas that receive monies in one way or another. The reasoning behind this reallocation would be based on the very sensible premise that the internet and technology in general have made our lives a lot easier in some areas and has put a strain on other areas. Reallocating funds to match this can only make sense.
In conversation with a staunch supporter of the old Royal High School and all the associated buildings and views I put it to him that never mind a hotel being built either side if for some reason the demolition of the school facilitated a state of the art cancer ward the bulldozers would be on Calton Hill tomorrow and nobody would object. He agreed.
So maybe the argument is not popular music versus the visual arts but whether all that arts funding is really the best use of the limited resources we have. That is not to diminish the importance of the arts but to accept they have benefited in a way other areas haven’t from these technological times we live in.
So much money is ring fenced as having to be spent in one way or another and maybe it is time to question that. Places like libraries can reinvent themselves and that is to be commended but there are too many areas still where people are simply protecting their own interests, and to be fair their jobs, when all common sense says the money they are receiving would be used better elsewhere.
No matter how hard I try to make serious points on twitter I have to face the fact that what people want are funny cartoons preferably about vinyl with the odd video thrown in for good measure.
This week’s cartoons based on a collector’s obsession with a slightly darker orange on the label of his record and a young boy in hospital being given vinyl by his nurse were popular but nothing matched a wonderful video created by Gabriel Magallon two years ago that resurfaced after Dave’s Records in Chicago posted it one morning in my timeline.
“The Addams Family dancing Blitzgrieg Bop by the Ramones” is all you need to know and it is well worth a couple of minutes of your time. https://vimeo.com/131936997
Great to see Saint Jude’s Infirmary are back with a new song “Towards The Great Tomorrow”. Introduced on social media with the John Fowles line “Sometimes to return is a vulgarity” the band’s return after a long hiatus is welcome indeed.
With an album finished and currently being mastered hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees the light of day. I might be wrong but being true to their old indie roots I’m guessing they won’t be selling signed test pressings at ridiculous prices or offering a bundle of a t-shirt, vinyl and cassette.
I know they’ve been away a while but Grant was even talking of releasing a single from the album. It doesn’t get any more old skool than that!