Brexit week 1: The art and business of Brexit politics

Yesterday a group of 70 business leaders, in a letter to The Times, came out for another referendum on the Brexit issue. These were the big guns. Who will publish the views of leaders of micro-businesses like Culturapedia? Culturapedia has never ignored politics but neither has it campaigned.

Traditionally, politics, with a big ‘P’ has meant party politics. At the moment it also means Brexit politics, with the left as divided as the right on what we should do. I feel differently about how involved Culturapedia should be involved in debates on party or Brexit politics. I don’t think that it is right for Culturapedia to publicly back a political party. We can, and have, however, campaigned on relevant issues such as funding the the arts. Brexit is different. It is an issue rather than a party but it is an all encompassing issue that has the potential to change things forever. A point of no return.

This week we are hosting Menagerie Theatre’s The Great Austerity Debate in Whitworth and Halton It is also the week that the Lancashire Arts Exchange is exploring the role that the arts plays in politics and issues and by extension the artists and arts companies that make up the arts ecosystem. APPL (Arts Partners in Pennine Lancashire of which Culturapedia is a proud member) will launch its Manifesto for the arts in Pennine Lancashire at the Arts Exchange. Also this week I plan to post five blogs on the subject.

There is no denying that Culturapedia exists within an political ecosystem. We are gatekeepers: we curate, for example, the art that we think that the people of Lancashire would like to see as part of Spot On. We are also beholden to other forces. Arts Council England funds us. In order to draw down this funding we are contracted to obey their rules and conform to their policies and definitions as to what constitutes great art. We are, inevitably political, with a small ‘p’.

The views expressed in this short series of blogs are mine. I have shared them with Sue, my co-director before publication. I could guess at the views of the rest of the team but would never dream to assume. I defend their right to hold their own views as long as they abide by our company values at work. I would never expect them to act on my political views and claim them to be their own. Insurance Tycoon, Arran Banks is in trouble this week for allegedly getting the staff of his company to engage in Brexit campaign activities. Even if we have no issue with companies having and making clear their political views, we cannot expect our staff to promote political views to which they are opposed just so that they can keep their job. This is why secret ballots were so fiercely fought for in the 19th century.

It is time to get off the fence. Where do I, as a director of Culturapedia, stand on Brexit? I think that the UK leaving the European Union is a mistake that, if it goes ahead, we will live to regret for many, many years to come. I also think that the political process is dictating by what will happen rather than common sense. The tail is currently wagging the dog. We live in a parliamentary democracy. We should never have had a referendum in the first place. It was forced on us by ideologues. The result was very close with an appalling level of misinformation given on both sides. I don’t like referenda but the only way to get out of the mess that we are in is to hold another. The Prime Minister says that we must stick by the result and that having a second vote ‘would be a betrayal of public trust’. I think that the first referendum was the betrayal of public trust. A second will reinstall trust that politicians want to do what is right and not be slaves to flawed processes. Once such a wedge has been placed in its heart, uniting the country is going to be an enormous challenge for whichever political leader emerges from this mess. 52/48 was far too close. If a second referendum is not called then half the country will forever be saying ‘if only’. If there remains a resounding cry of leave then the issue will be doubly settled.

Tomorrow I plan to think about how leaving the EU will affect UK arts businesses. I say plan…. Who knows what may have changed by then.