Nick Ahad: Thanks for the spending review... but we all knew what the arts are worth already

I wanted to write about prejudice this week, mainly because last weekend I had my own prejudices challenged and realised I ought to rethink a fairly entrenched view.

Then George Osborne announced his thoughts on the arts in his autumn spending review and I thought my plans had to go out of the window.

Fortunately, I thought back to my first day at journalism school and remembered that ‘dog bites man’ isn’t a story, but ‘man bites dog’, is, and realised I could return to my first thought after all. What do I mean? Well, in his spending review Osborne talked about the economic value of the arts. He made the assertion that deep cuts to the arts would be “a false economy”. He went on to say that the arts are “one of the best investments we can make as a nation and that £1bn a year in grants leads to a quarter of a trillion pounds to the economy –not a bad return”.

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Well, yes, Mr O. Me and my B in GCSE maths agree with all of that.

I wondered if he had been reading the Yorkshire Post Arts View when I heard his pronouncement. I think it’s fair to say the point has been made in these pages a fair few times over the past few years – invest in the arts because the arts pay us back, has been the thrust of my argument, on a pretty regular basis, for about four years.

So thanks for the spending review and for recognising the value of the arts, but really, we all knew what the arts are worth already. Although I suppose the announcement does signal a reversal of an ideological war that has been waged on culture over the past few years, so we should be grateful for that. So, prejudice.

I was wandering through Leeds city centre last weekend when the window display of a private gallery caught my eye. I was born in 1977, or as some of us know it, the year of Star Wars, so the display of Star Wars comic covers in the gallery window was always going to pull me in.

I had someone sensible with me, so fortunately I didn’t spend a thousand quid I don’t have on a huge, framed Star Wars comic cover, but I did find myself on the end of a fairly long lecture from the very nice lady running the store. I made the mistake of telling her that commercial galleries, like the one we were in, sold ‘Ikea art’. She didn’t like that at all. What followed my cheeky assertion was an explanation why their art was anything but ‘Ikea’ (I meant identikit, reprinted, unchallenging ubiquitous work).

She put up a strong and valid argument and henceforth I will not consider the gallery a purveyor of bland ubiquity. I wonder if the chancellor has experienced a similar epiphany.