Opinion

Won an Oscar? Come on in. Want an Oscar? Tough luck kids

The Westminster government’s list that allows fast-track residency for people who have won certain awards is really odd, especially as it slashes arts funding

Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

On the face of it, the list allows for a diverting game. And as the pubs reopen but the football ends, we’ll need something to talk about.

So, would you rather bump into Sean Penn in Greggs or Jeff Bridges in the 24-hour garage? Meryl Streep in B&Q or Marion Cotillard in IKEA? Both looking at shelving. For their awards, obviously.

The Westminster government’s list that allows fast-track residency for people who have won certain awards is really odd. There is an issue on the value placed on some awards.

Oscars are quite the golden ticket. As are the theatre equivalent, the Tonys. But not all of them. The big glamorous Oscars, like actors and directors, are grand. But work in the technical, some would argue more essential realm, and there’s no air-conditioned Winnebago for you. So to speak.

Got a Nobel for Literature, come on in. Got a Booker Prize, well just stay where you are, daddy-o, and keep scribbling.

It is part of the post-Brexit plan for Britain, to show the island nation is still one to punch on a global scale.

But there are two problems with lists like the Oscar one. The first is how it says we value people and lives.

So, red carpet rolled out if you’re a well-known success. Tough luck if you’re a kid who wants to be a success

If you have had your life blown to hell by conflict, if your home has been destroyed, your family imperilled or worse and you see no hope but a tented mass refugee camp, if you decide to try and travel thousands of miles to build some sort of new life, every impediment will be put in your way to stop you getting to Britain. But if you put on quite the turn in Joker, well come on in. I’m curious to see how many well-known faces take advantage of the offer.

The other issue is what is going on in Britain. While this attempt to get the good and glamorous in has been unveiled, the government has announced plans to scale back certain elements of arts education in English colleges. The education secretary, who is still Gavin Williamson, is proposing slashing funds by half for subjects considered not a “strategic priority” in higher education. These subjects include music, dance, drama and performing arts, and art and design.

So, red carpet rolled out if you’re a well-known success. Tough luck if you’re a kid who wants to be a success, particularly if you’re from a poorer background with no access to this kind of world.

The UK creative industries contributed £111bn to the UK economy in 2018. They were worth almost £13m to the UK every hour. EVERY HOUR. Statistics published last February said that the creative industries sector was growing more than five times faster than the national economy. Those figures came from the Westminster government, in a very happy report published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media And Sport.

The cut in budget will save around £19m a year. At a moment when focus on jobs now and for the future is acute, the cost may be far too great to calculate.

Still, at least we have something to talk about in the pub.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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