On December 15 2008 Nick Clegg delivered a speech to the think tank Demos entitled “Why I am a Liberal”. It was both passionate and philosophical, a very personal evocation of liberalism that captures the essence of political empowerment:
“A Liberal believes in the raucous, unpredictable capacity of people to take decisions about their own lives… A Liberal believes a progressive society is distinguished by aspiration, creativity and non-conformity.”
Today, Don Foster MP, the Liberal Democrats Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, launched “The Power of Creativity” – a vision document for the arts that translates Liberal ideals into political commitments, policies and aspirations.
As the document highlights, the first Chairman of the Arts Council was John Maynard Keynes, the noted economist and lifelong member of the Liberal Party. He set out a clear mission for the Arts Council:
“The purpose of the Arts Council of Great Britain is to create an environment, to breed a spirit, to cultivate an opinion, to offer a stimulus to such purpose that the artist and the public can each sustain and live on the other in that union which has occasionally existed in the past at the great ages of a communal civilised life.”
In the current political and economic climate, funding, innovation, local support and creative risk-taking are all in jeopardy. Our own experience in Basildon, with “The Woodsman”, “Progression” and The Wat Tyler Sculpture Trail are testimony to the low priority that the arts receive in terms of support from local government, particularly where politicans are obsessed with enormous capital projects to cement their political legacy. Foster’s paper seeks to sustain Keyne’s original and Liberal vision for the arts in these more uncertain times.