On Sept 18th Andrew Nairne Executive director of Arts Council England asked What Can Art Do? I wrote this.
The great religions are promulgated through society by art. Christianity would be invisible without The Bible likewise Islam and The Koran . Both are promoted by literature, by works of art. Art is a time traveller. Art is an omnipresent teller of story. It's more effective than CNN, BBC and Sky News put together. Art is in all the poems read at all the funerals and weddings that happened on every day of every year of your life from every class race gender and sexuality of human being.
The freedom to write is a sign of a free society. Art is the greatest symbol, the greatest expression of freedom. No Wonder. No wonder writers are a threat to repressive regimes. It's because of the greatness and importance of books. Art bridges the gap between the spiritual world and the physical one. At times of great need – trauma, loss, celebration, reunion, hope, introduction, – we need the bridge. We need art. It's why there is song. It is why there is poetry. It is why there is dance. It is why there is music. What can art do? Art can save lives.
People need the bridge over troubled waters. Because art is life. This is not an exaggeration. Take away those poems, those songs, paintings, music and leave citizens bereft of expression. There madness lies. Art offers a quality of life and of experience . A fundamental power of art is to articulate. If aliens did visit us they would get a truer representation of the human being through art than through anything else
Art is as close to the environment as human beings can get. What art can do is what it does. I have seen homeless men and women speak who have not spoken before due to some unspeakable trauma. I have seen poems bring the invisible into focus on national radio. I have seen crying children smile. I have seen poems change lives. It is why poems are read at weddings at funerals, at births, on royal occasions and personal occasions; when soldiers are at war and in peace time.
We turn to art because it is the greatest expression of humanity available to all.