Wednesday 16 October 2013

Prize Winners v. Food Banks

I have three blog ideas tumbling round my brain at the moment. The more I think about which one to choose, the more I find that the issues are linked and so I shall discuss them all and I wonder if you too will be ashamed of our society when you've had time to think about the disparity.

The Reith Lecture

Yesterday morning I listened to Grayson Perry's Reith Lecture on BBC Radio 4. If you missed it you can read the transcript here, although it loses something by not hearing the man himself with his fascinatingly quirky personality. It was a great example of how someone can 'cock a snoot' at the establishment so much more effectively from within but that isn't the issue I'm picking up on here. It's the fact that Perry's pottery once sold for whatever he could get for it. Now that he's a famous Turner Prize winner his works command vast sums of money.

The Booker Prize

Moving on to last night and the announcement of this year's Booker Prize winner, Eleanor Catton. The youngest ever winner at the age of 28, she was awarded a cheque for £50,000 for her book The Luminaries. I congratulate her but I also question the value and our use of money in today's society because my third issue is...

UK Food Banks

A headline in today's Independent Newspaper states, "Britain's Use of Food Banks Triples". Between April and September of this year the Trussell Trust distributed food to 355,985 people, including nearly 120,000 children. Until last year I knew nothing about Food Banks and was surprised to learn that a friend volunteers at her local Food Bank. She explained that people are given three days' worth of food. These are not society's drop-outs but people who are desperate to feed their families. Many of those who she helped were having money problems through no fault of their own. One had to wait for a payment cheque which had taken longer than usual to arrive. Another explained that his allowances had been changed which meant there was a gap in payments and, although the money would be back-dated, he had no savings to draw on.

The article in The Independent goes on to say that the Red Cross "announced it planned to distribute food aid to the needy in Britain this winter for the first time since the Second World War." What kind of society awards five and six figure sums to people who excel in the arts while vast numbers of people are struggling to feed themselves and their families?

How can we justify giving, with one hand, vast sums to successful individuals in the Arts world and, with the other hand, food parcels containing three days' worth of food to hungry families?