Clickbait Circus

An article by Douglas McPherson has recently stirred up the funding debate in the circus and wider arts community.

Total Theatre and Exeunt Magazine dismiss the article as mere clickbait. It was my first thought; the quality of argument and logic in the article certainly could be interpreted as such but I’d like to give McPherson the benefit of the doubt. Why should the response be cynical? Perhaps it is the authors attempt to add to the marketplace of ideas. If so, I think it’s fair to respond to such an attempt as brave and positive. It is also our collective duty to counter the position and move forward. If one is so sure of the truth, it will be quick and easy to reply with thoughtful, reasoned argument.

The following quotation sums up McPherson’s position concicley: “Stop all public funding of the arts, now!”.

This is a statment worth considering- radical and challenging. Not original but relevant. As long as taxpayer funding exsists, it is a political issue and fair game for criticism, transparancy and questioning.

The other issue McPherson raises is the traditional vs contemporary circus debate that probably stoped being revelant or interesting 15 years ago. Not to say audiences are informed about the differences- there is still much to be done on that front. Rather that within the industry, things have moved on. It’s not an issue. Both exsist and will continue to do so. Hopefully.

Artists move between the two camps, and so do audiences. Funding doesn’t. Why is this? That is a question I think worth exploring. A question for the funders and the circus traditionalists.

Yet I feel no one should care about traditional or contemporary label. They may be useful marketing tools but using them as a guide to judge the quality of work is just plain silly.

Good ideas are good ideas. I don’t care about the label- it’s the work that matters. I love great circus. I don’t care if it identifies as traditional or contemporary.

Clearly in the past McPherson’s opinion differs from mine on the subject. “Much ‘narrative’ and ‘theatrical’ contemporary circus has left me yawning,” says McPherson.

If one was to properly engage in political debate about art, funding etc, I would enjoy watching and reading it. I would look to others who are far more clued up from both sides of the discussion to put their arguments forward.

On reflection I don’t think Douglas McPherson’s recent Telegraph article is a very good starting point for such a debate. His lack of research with contradicting statments and incorrect facts make it too easy to dismiss the general principal he believes in. This does not mean the principal is wrong, just that McPherson is not expressing it effectively.

I suspect people whose opinions are already formed on the matter are looking at the facts or theoritical arguments. They are reflecting on their immediate situation and at their subjectived experience. They know they are right because they know their reality. Anecdotal evidence is most compelling first hand.

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