It’s a Cultural Life: What will we miss the most if our cultural joys diminish and disappear?

Festival Fringe plasterer puts up poster promoting their show.

Professor Joe Goldblatt

Jimmy Stewart, as small time banker George Bailey, becomes severely depressed when his business fails and plans to take his life in the perennial Christmas classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. When director Frank Capra conceived this production he imagined ‘an individual discovering that they are a part of something bigger than themselves’. This discovery saves George Bailey’s life.

As I witness every day our cultural institutions and creatives suffering from a lack of financial investment by government, corporations, and pivate individuals I wonder if anyone has taken a moment to imagine what the world would look and feel like without the critcal cultural fabric that binds us together.

For example, imagine the absence of applause.

Now imagine the absence of laughter.

What would if feel like to not experience as a community a great symphonic musical climax or a gorgeous ballet dancer soaring across the stage as the audience collectively gasps in astonishment and delight?

Not long after the pandemic had begun to ease its mighty death like grip upon our cultural platforms, I returned to the Festival Theatre and noticed that from my seat in the centre of the stalls that the dress circle balcony above my head felt like two mighty arms hugging me tightly as if to say “Welcome back.”

What would happen if these historically significant buildings were moth balled or worse they were repurposed for another non cultural use?

To become a professional musician, dancer, actor, or painter requires many years of study and sacrifice. What will happen to these creatives if their livelihoods are destroyed through a continuous lack of investment?

I wonder why our sports teams benefit from major investment by government and corporations when the Festival Fringe actually attracts more ticket buyers than the Olympic Games or the World Cup?

Like George Bailey, I do not know the long term solution to this problem now as we are at the beginning of our cultural survival story in Scotland. However, at the end of the film George meets an angel who will only gain his wings if he helps another person. He succeeds with George. When George returns to his family on Christmas eve the entire town rushes to his aid with cash to bail him out from bankruptcy. His youngest daughter rings a bell upon the Christmas tree and announces proudly “Everytime you ring a bell, an angel gets its wings!”

Perhaps now is the time to ring every bell up and down this land, just as we banged upon pots and pans in support of the NHS during the pandemic. Let us ring out our support for our cultural institutions and our creatives to insure that they know as do we that the arts are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Culture is the hallowed tartan that has woven this nation together in a colourful rhapsody of music, poetry, literature, drama, dance, visual art, and so much more. We must not let our cultural tartan’s future unravel and instead help it find more powerful wings.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland and his opinions are his own. To learn more about his other views visit

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