writer, broadcaster and director of the New Culture Forum
The challenge facing the arts in the coming years is to halt their accelerating decline into a merely self-flattering leisure activity for the urban middle classes. At the very time at which cheap accessibility has become a priority, the numbing predictability of much artistic output has made them increasingly irrelevant to more and more people. Their ability to shock (as opposed to simply generating the faux-outrage of the media) and open up real discussion will require enormous courage on the part of individual voices, whether from the left or right.
That we will see this is highly feasible. At the moment, the arts are just as risk-averse as many other parts of society. It is arguable that as the largely liberal arts and broadcasting establishment starts to genuinely experience, on a personal level, the effects of widespread social and civil breakdown, the desire to cleave to the dominant cultural orthodoxy will weaken. In creative terms, this could only be a healthy development.
Despite – or indeed because of - the gradual disintegration of public life in its traditional sense, people will retain the need to come together, and here cultural activity could become increasingly important. For example, it was predicted twenty years ago that the massive growth in personal entertainment systems would spell the death of the cinema as a collective experience. In fact, the opposite happened, and attendances in the UK are at their highest in 30 years. This has also happened despite film losing much of its wider cultural resonance.
On a different note, I see the growth in discussion groups, think tanks, even contemporary versions of the salon, as one of the most encouraging cultural developments in recent years. These will continue to prosper as traditional party activity declines, and individuals feel that the artistic landscape offers little real stimulation or variation of viewpoint. The fact that people, especially the young, want to come together in this way is a cause for real optimism for the future.
See Peter Whittle‘s website