There’s been a move afoot in recent years which argues that you don’t need an arts infrastructure and that all arts funding should go directly to front line organisations. It suggests that if the larger theatres and museums, for example, could develop big enough education and outreach departments, these would be enough to increase audiences, develop new work, engage more young people, connect with more schools and improve cultural diversity. All the current ills facing the art world would be solved if you just did away with the infrastructure and handed over the cash to the deliverers.
This is all very well but imagine a scenario in the physical world where you did away with national power, transport and water infrastructure and allowed individual cities or regions to generate their own infrastructures. You’d have at least 17 different types of railway gauge across the country, none of which connected with each other; 53 different highway codes, none of which could be remembered by anyone; and power supplies which favoured the wealthy and cut off anyone who couldn’t afford the tariffs or had access to the countless plug adapters which would proliferate as a result of the dismantling of the national power grid.
There’s a lot that needs improving with the U.K’s arts infrastructure: but systematically destroying it isn’t the solution. It’s like the roads, the railways and the National Grid: you’ll only notice it when it’s gone.