Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 September 2020
Friday 13th December, 2019. By a cruel and unusual coincidence, the deadline for filing this piece fell hours after a UK General Election in which the turkeys voted emphatically for Christmas. Amid the louring clouds, a small silver lining: it will be at least five years before the Prime Minister returns to his unfinished biography of William Shakespeare. It is not a pleasant thought, but I would rather he was finishing the book, even if (like his biography of Churchill) it is bound to be an exercise in regurgitation, vanity and self-projection. The relevance of the General Election result to this column – and especially those that follow it in the years ahead – lies in the direction of travel it implies for the UK and its cultural life. The new government will likely double down on the culture wars to distract from the continuing erosion of public services and the immiseration of large parts of the population. Leftie-bashing is back in vogue and this will be felt keenly by theatre-makers. Arts education will continue to be a privilege and not a right, a gift reserved largely for the privately educated, with severe implications for actor training and the pipeline of talent.