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Britain should take pride in its world-class arts

Dua Lipa performing at the Grammy Awards last year. Kevin Winter/Getty

The BBC kicked off 2022 with a poem lauding the “magnificent things” Britain achieved in 2021, says Jonathan Dean in The Sunday Times. Did it mention Coldplay hitting No 1 in 14 countries, or the fact that Dua Lipa’s Levitating was the most streamed song in America last year? No, it did not. The poem name-checked our footballers, runners-up at the Euros; Emma Raducanu, the 19th-best female tennis player; and our Paralympic team, who came second.

This ignorance of Britain’s world-class “cultural oomph” fits a national pattern. Live events are estimated to be worth £70bn a year, but the government, “more into the culture wars than culture”, prioritised restarting sports events rather than festivals or plays. Covid handouts failed to reach the freelancers who staff our creative sector. But arts are what Britain does best: they shape “how we are celebrated and sold abroad, from foreign teens looking at our best universities to tourists tramping through Downton-like stately homes”. Olivia Colman and Benedict Cumberbatch are hot contenders to win this year’s top acting Oscars. In music, we had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and today we have Ed Sheeran – not to my taste, but his 2017-19 world tour “raked in more than £600m”. If that doesn’t deserve a set of commemorative stamps, what does?

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