I’ve started to write my dissertation for my final year of University, which has been a fab way of merging all my political and musical interests into 12,000 words of non-biased research and debate. Some of my findings have been extremely eyeopening, and here’s why.
My dissertation is focusing on elitism in classical music, and has expanded to look into society and culture as a whole. My assumption before I started my research was that people from high socioeconomic backgrounds would mainly watch and participate in events in the ‘high’ arts, such as classical music and opera, and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds would mainly participate in popular culture activities, such as popular music for example. However, I have been proven wrong, and my findings have made me realise that the culture in the UK is even more unequal than I first anticipated.
The Government help to fund the arts, which is fantastic in some cases. It means that some community arts projects can receive funding to help get more and more people participating in the arts. However, most of that spending goes towards ‘high’ art establishments, such as large orchestras and opera houses. ‘High’ art is mostly interesting to those who are well educated, and if you’ve ever seen the price of an opera ticket for Glyndebourne, you’ll know that it is also only accessible to those with high financial capital. So, by the government helping towards funding opera and classical music, surely more people from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be interested in attending, right?
Wrong. Often the price of tickets isn’t the only aspect putting people off attending these events. If you have no interest in the opera, you’re not going to spend money on it whether it costs £150 per ticket or £10 per ticket. If individuals feel that they won’t understand the culture, or fit in with the other audience members, this can put them off too. So, what is the government spending on the arts actually doing to our country?
Effectively, by mainly funding the high arts, the government are giving a very large discount to those people who are already interested in the ‘high’ arts. Most of these people, as stated earlier, come from high socio-economic backgrounds and therefore have the money to spend on tickets anyway. For people from low socio-economic backgrounds, this is a big issue. Popular events are not publicly funded, perhaps because they are not seen as educational or valuable. This means that accessible events such as popular music concerts and cinema tickets (that appeal to the masses) are very much financially inaccessible for many. This is leading to a problem that the government would find very undesirable, surely, in that people who cannot afford the culture that they are actually interested in are not experiencing any culture at all. Middle and upper classes are in fact going to a very large variety of cultural events, including ‘popular’ events, where people from lower class families cannot experience anything unless they want a ticket to see The Marriage of Figaro.
Surely that is inequality at it’s finest? It is a well-known fact that exposure to culture enhances education, well-being, career prospects, health and many more factors of life, but the majority of the British population cannot have access to it. This could lead to a larger divide between rich and poor, leaving the poor with nothing and the rich experiencing all the vibrant culture the country has to offer.