Cultural Commons

 

The cultural commons belongs to all of us

The cultural commons belongs to all of us

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Chris Guiton analyses and discusses the importance of the concept of the cultural commons. In the 21st century we are witnessing the rapid encroachment by capitalism on what is often referred to as the ‘cultural commons’. These are the shared resources in the cultural sphere which belong to all of us rather than a wealthy or privileged minority. This goes beyond specific works of art to the broader cultural sphere identified by Raymond Williams, the Marxist writer and academic, as our “whole way of life - the common meanings…the arts and learning – the special processes of discovery and creative effort” (Moving from High Culture to Ordinary Culture). For Williams, “culture is ordinary”. It is not the preserve of a cultural elite, but a democratic right for everyone. In recent decades, however, the cultural hegemony of neoliberal capitalism has expanded and deepened its economic, political and intellectual control over us. In Britain, this process has been sharpened by the deployment of the 2008 recession to justify austerity policies designed to erode public services, cut wages and deepen inequality. These policies are not only having an unequal, and adverse, economic effect on the less well-off and working people generally, they are…
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Bread, roses and the cultural commons

Bread, roses and the cultural commons

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‘The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too’ said the aptly named Rose Schneiderman early in the last century. She was right, we all need bread – fair material rewards for our labour – but we also need roses. We need a popular and extensive cultural commons, including free or cheap access to cultural activities, to develop and enjoy our essentially social natures.The Culture Matters website aims to contribute to the cultural struggle, what Blake called the ‘mental fight’ for a new Jerusalem, for a more democratic and socialist society. The struggle will be long and hard. Over time, capitalism has penetrated our culture more and more. And culture, as Raymond Williams pointed out, is not just highbrow art but consists of all our ideas, values, beliefs and customs, including all the arts but also sport, religion, eating and drinking, watching TV, etc. It’s true that capitalism’s dynamism and innovation has helped create a massive expansion in opportunities for cultural education and enjoyment. Think of the number of TV and radio channels, books, art galleries, films, music festivals, and sports facilities there are these days. But there is also a relentless drive for profit in capitalism. Every human activity,…
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The Minister for Poetry Has Decreed
Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:58

The Minister for Poetry Has Decreed

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Poems by Kevin Higgins £5.99 (plus £1.50 p&p) 48 pp ISBN 978 19074641889 The Minister for Poetry Has Decreed is political poetry of the highest order, telling truth to power and poking fun at it at the same time, artistically deploying a profoundly moral sense of justice and truth to expose lies, evasions, greed and sheer stupidity. Kevin Higgins, like Bertolt Brecht, has a gift for exposing the hypocrisies and deceits which are inevitably generated by a political culture which ignores, denies or seeks to legitimise the legalised robbery that passes for capitalist economic arrangements. And like Brecht he does it in a wickedly simple, accessible, entertaining style. “Ireland’s accomplished political poet and satirist”, - Diarmaid Ferriter, The Irish Times “I read this twice. Now, will make a coffee and read it again.” - Gene Kerrigan, The Sunday Independent “Likely the mostly widely read living poet in Ireland”, - The Stinging Fly magazine.  
The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:52

The Earth and the Stars in the Palm of Our Hand

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Poems by Fred Voss £5.99 (plus £1.50 p&p) 48 pp ISBN 978 1907 464102   I want to change the world, I want to strike the spark or kick the pebble that will start the fire or the avalanche that will change the world a little. - Fred Voss Everyone can see the growing inequality, the precarious and low paid nature of employment, the housing crisis in our cities, the divisions and inequalities between social classes, the problems of obesity, drink and drugs, and the sheer everyday struggle to pay the bills for many working people. In this situation, Fred Voss is like a prophet. He is warning us of the consequences of the way we live, he is telling truth to power, and he is inspiring us with a positive vision of a possible – and desirable – socialist future. - Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union  
Slave Songs & Symphonies
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Thursday, 22 December 2016 13:47

Slave Songs and Symphonies

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Poems by David BetteridgeDrawings by Bob Starrett £5.99 (plus £1.50 p&p) 48 pp ISBN 978 1907 464164   Slave Songs and Symphonies is an ambitious, beautifully crafted collection of poems, images and epigraphs. It's about human history, progressive art and music, campaigns for political freedom, social justice and peace. Above all it's about the class and cultural struggle of workers 'by hand and by brain’ to regain control and ownership of the fruits of their labour. David Betteridge’s poems are leftist, lyrical, and learned, infused with sadness and compassion for the sufferings of our class, the working class. They are also inspired by visionary hope, and a strong belief that our class-divided society and culture can be transformed by radical politics and good art – and by radical art and good politics. Bob Starrett’s drawings are much more than illustrations. They dance with the poems, commenting on them as well as illustrating them. They are like Goya’s drawings in their dark, ink-black truthfulness and their intimate knowledge of suffering and Blake’s 'mental fight'. Like the poems, they express and resolve the struggles they depict. Slave Songs and Symphonies tells the story of how slave songs become symphonies – and helps makes it happen. It is not just about class and cultural struggle – it is class and…

Defending the freedom of artists

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Andrew Warburton continues his series on art and cultural policy by interviewing Theresa Easton and Pam Foley at Artists’ Union England, the union for visual and applied artists. Artists’ Union England is a fairly new trade union, launched on May Day 2014, representing visual and applied artists individually in the workplace and collectively at “strategic decision-making events,” according to its website. It received its Certificate of Independence earlier this year, has over 600 members and recommends fair rates of pay for new graduates and more experienced artists. The union was established to address the representational needs of artists who work as sole traders, are often self-employed and who find it difficult to make their voices heard.
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Placing the art of the people at the heart of our public life

Placing the art of the people at the heart of our public life

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Andrew Warburton continues his series on arts policy by interviewing Dr. Ben Walmsley, professor of audience engagement at Leeds University. Socialist policies for arts and culture are not created in an ideological vacuum. Rather than thinking we must devise policies that reflect our ideology perfectly and then impose those policies on the world, the seeds of a socialist approach to art can be found in the here and now. If we are to identify those seeds and elucidate ways to draw them out, we require a grasp of the present state of things, and a clear understanding of the way the arts should be developed for the collective good and for the working class.
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Arts and culture policies and socialism

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With six years of Tory austerity behind us, Brexit on the horizon and the left-wing reorientation of the Labour Party ongoing, Culture Matters is starting a debate about the possible arts and cultural policies of a future socialist government. As part of this initiative, we will be interviewing representatives of organizations on the left – political parties, trade unions, arts organisations etc. We want to gather their views on art and culture, their analysis of the way things are at the moment, and what the way forward might look like. Andrew Warburton starts us off with an introduction to the topic and a brief description of the state of play at the moment. After years of reduced funding to the Arts Council of Great Britain in the late 70s, 80s and early 90s, the last Labour government presided, comparatively, over a golden age for the arts. It was not without its failures (including the much-derided Millennium Dome), but Labour’s achievements during those 13 years included the ending of museum admission fees, the opening of the Tate Modern and a heavy increase in funding to the Arts Council from £179 million in 1998 to £453 million in 2009.
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Chi Onwurah MP

Introduction to the AV 2016 Festival

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Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Culture, introduced the International AV Festival in the North East with this address. I’m delighted to be here at the Mining Institute, Newcastle, one of my favourite buildings in the city, built by engineers for engineers, and now enjoyed by everyone. As an engineer myself that is a particular pleasure. And I should also add that its great to have two women up here, speaking, contrasting and competing with all the portraits of men that hang around us.
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