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The arts are central to UK life
Andy Walsh's speech at the Performers' Alliance Parliamentary lobby
Yesterday the WGGB, as part of the Performers’ Alliance Parliamentary Group (including Equity and the Musicians’ Union) lobbied Westminster. Issues ranged from arts cuts to not only low pay, but no pay, for writers, actors and musicians.
The lobby was well attended by members of both Houses, including Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Shadow Culture Secretary, Dan Jarvis. All listened to what we had to say and the Guild, as ever, will continue the conversation.
Andrew Walsh, our Treasurer, spoke eloquently on behalf of the WGGB. Here’s his speech.
Good afternoon, my Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, and it is quite nice to be able to use that greeting in a place where it’s actually applicable. Coming from the games industry I have to say that the Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen here today aren’t as well armoured, or armed and, despite what the tabloids say, as disreputably behaved as the ones I normally spend my days with.
So, a games writer? A bit of an odd choice to send to stand before you today? Games to some people are this strange peripheral thing, a novel industry. To some writers we are still something set on the side, the junior medium. Even though we’ve been around for 40 years. There are those in the games industry who don’t understand the role of writing in games, despite the fact there are games out there with two million or more words in them. And yet. . .and yet. . .
The latest Call Of Duty, the first game to earn more than $1 billion, and it’s only been out a couple of weeks so it will earn more. This game has chosen to put the story, the writing, at the heart of its latest advertising campaign. And why? Because they understand that writing helps to build a brand; it sells.
Starting one project, the producer introduced himself as ‘the money’, so I introduced myself as one of the guys who was going to get his money back. A return on investment is apparent across media. We export theatre to Broadway, film, television, animation, books, theatre and videogames worldwide. Government studies show that if you put money into the Arts, you get money out elsewhere. Cuts in the arts aren’t savings, they are losses. When people think of the UK they think of arts and culture, we are part of the British brand.
And we artists keep popping up in the strangest of places. Throughout history polymaths have combined science, industry and art to create and drive entrepreneurship. Art changes ways of thinking. While science can show you the stars, art can take you there. Not just poetically, creative thinking, creative solutions will give us the next great leap.
So, when you’re considering the baccalaureate and how to shape our children’s thoughts, when you’re reviewing that battered bastion of the arts the BBC, when you’re asking which industries to invest in, remember that the arts aren’t peripheral, they are central, they are at the heart of everything we do. They shape our thinking, they are an industry, they help make this country great.