Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
The Creative Gamble
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
funding in the United Kingdom has been transformed
by the injection of over £2bn since the launch
of the national lottery ten years ago, however progress
towards a more enlightened culture in which people
value their creative potential and appreciate the
creative efforts of others continues to evade the
Redefining how creativity is stimulated in the general
population is inextricably linked to the strategies
of funding and the principle of inclusivity.
Life's a Lottery
Around 70% of the adult population in the UK play
at least one National Lottery game regularly (up
to once a month).
The National Lottery was established by the UK Parliament
to raise money for 'worthwhile causes'. The original
'Good Causes' were: arts; sports; charities; heritage;
and celebrating the millennium. The millennium category
is now no longer supported, and three additional
categories have been added: health, education, and
Sixteen bodies are responsible for giving grants
to these 'good causes', and of the 28 pence from
each lottery pound, the 'good causes' receive the
following percentage shares:
Opportunities Fund and NESTA
Revenue for charities, the voluntary sector,
health, education, the environment, and large-scale
regenerative projects. NESTA "supports
and promotes talent, innovation and creativity
in the fields of science, technology and the
Arts Councils of England, Wales, Northern
Ireland and Scotland
Sports Councils of England, Wales, Northern
Ireland and Scotland
National Lottery Charities Board
National Heritage Fund
£2bn (US$3,700,000,000,000) is a very big
number and evens out to around US$37,000,000,000.
This vast pot of money amounts to around £90
million that's spent on the lottery in the UK every
People are encouraged to participate in the lottery
because they are presented with a chance of becoming
very rich for a small payment and little effort.
The chance of winning the UK National Lottery with
an average prize of £2.1 million is 1 in 13,983,816
- each six ball combination is unique and there
are 13,983,816 combinations. For 5 plus a bonus
ball your chance increases to 1 in 2.3 million with
an average prize of £102,000. For five balls it's
a 1 in 55,550 chance for a prize of £1,530. Four
balls and you've a 1 in 1030 chance to win £62.
Three balls, it's a 1 in 57 chance for the princely
sum of £10. Two balls and below you'll get
nothing. Whatever way you view it, the odds are
10,000 lottery tickets are bought every week with
the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. If these numbers came
up as the jackpot, each winner would receive around
Looking at the breakdown below it's clear that the
lottery is used as a political vehicle to promote
the support of good causes even though 12% of all
the money made from the lottery is collected as
general tax duty and used in any way the treasury
sees fit. The lottery is further undermined as an
efficient model to generate revenue for good causes
by commission and profit costs:
Simply ensuring the lottery is run along a non-profit
model would increase revenue from 28% to 45% in
A Rich Culture
There are serious consequences of running a lottery
to fund 'good causes'. Gambling causes social problems
in particular economic groups, and promotes a climate
where people wish something for nothing. There are
three kinds of people who gamble:
1. The 'Adventurer' is someone with an increasing
desire to gamble for excitement, and who sees their
winnings as resulting from their personal abilities.
2. The 'Loser' is the gambler who bets increasing
amounts of money chasing the money they've lost.
3. The 'Desperate Gambler' is a full-time obsessive,
increasingly gambling on credit, and taking greater
and greater risks.
Rather than appealing crudely to our desire for
instant prize money, it's far better to focus upon
the support for good causes as that benefits the
broader population. It's a matter of emphasis: your
money is well spent for the advantage of all, and
if you're lucky, you'll enjoy a generous payout.
There is however an equally concerning political
issue around the use of lottery funding in the UK.
I've met Sir Christopher Frayling, the dynamic and
gifted chairman of the Arts Council of England.
He is unquestionably committed to furthering and
supporting creative and cultural activities in the
general population. Culture secretary Tessa Jowell
has also stated 'Complex cultural activity is not
just a pleasurable hinterland for the public to
fall back on after the important things are done.
It is at the heart of what it means to be a fully
developed human being.'
Christopher Frayling and Tessa Jowell view the lottery
funding as central to the way arts and cultural
activities and its infrastructures are supported.
The rhetoric is explicit but rests on an illusory
assumption. Lottery receipts are in decline and
there's nothing to suggest that decline will cease.
A bold new vision of how to fund creativity and
culture through taxation and voluntary contributions
needs to be developed. It's as much about attitudes
and policy, as economics.
Arts administrators and politicians need to recognize
the core responsibility we have to support and encourage
creative activity as a fundamental human activity.
There has always been a reticence to counter the
argument 'where should the money go? A new hospital
bed or a painting for a gallery?'. We are not only
physical, but spiritual beings. The present policy
of lottery funding demotes the support of cultural
and creative activities from 'essential requirements'
to 'good causes'. My hope is that someone in a position
of political influence, someday, somewhere, recognizes,
then acts upon this simple but fundamental truth...
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