One, for example, concerns the Manchester-based theatre company called HOME. Like so many arts companies, this is a registered charity, and so in effect is supported by the taxpayer. Despite this, the company felt no qualms about putting on an anti-Brexit play called Out of Order, which featured six clowns wordlessly discussing Brexit. Why? Because this is a time when ‘‘words are no longer a useful ally to express how we feel about the current impasse. Or maybe, just maybe, the rest of the world thinks we’re a bunch of clowns.”
HOME thought this was fine, Faucher explains, because the city of Manchester voted to remain in the EU; but a majority of districts in Greater Manchester did not, and the company clearly weren’t bothered if some of their audience members felt themselves included among the clowns. Faucher doesn’t tell us whether in the interests of balance the company offered a second production, exploring a sympathetic, insightful exploration of the Leaver mind-set. I think we can guess why.
Here and there amid the sea of gloom, one finds a hint that not everyone in the arts is so negative. For instance, the leader of the Danish-UK Association thinks that Brexit and its consequences will just be “a bump in the road”. But these little rays of hope are always tucked away at the end of a section, as if to emphasise their eccentricity. Even the coronavirus crisis is seen as a less pressing concern: “In a way, the Covid-19 pandemic has played the role of a smokescreen that conceals urgent and crucial Brexit-related discussions.”
The message the report wants to drive home is: Brexit is an impending disaster for the arts, and the Government must act now to mitigate it. The message many of us might actually take away is that, given the unflattering picture the report gives of the institutional mind-set governing Britain’s arts, prophecies of doom should be taken with a large grain of salt.