I have been churning and turning this issue over in my mind for days and just can't get to grips with it. As someone who has spent all her working life in the arts I should be cheering and clapping my hands, imagining the crocodiles of children snaking past exhibits, crying in theatres and snapping eagerly with cameras, but instead I can't help feeling more than a little bewildered.
How, exactly, are children going to get the equivalent of an hour a day, five days a week of high quality cultural activity? Are artists going to be the new teachers? I suspect that the only people who get 5 hours of HQC a week are art critics, and they have to watch/walk past/read through many tens of hours of dross to attain this. And what is it with the government and the target number five?
Now, I'd love to think that I could spend an hour on Monday having a go at throwing a pot with the help of a fabulous local potter, Tuesday bursting my lungs with contemporary song, Wednesday touring the region's best art gallery and museum instead of munching on a lunchtime snack, and on Friday using up my last two hours on a thrilling performance. But I know that this just isn't going to happen. And on a rural note it'd take at least ten hours of my time to get to these things; not everyone lives near city amenities.
Are we also being ridiculous in expecting this "Find your Talent" scheme to produce hundreds of thousands of artists that wouldn't otherwise exist because of some lingering idea that Cool Brittannia was a real concept and accessible to all?
Yes, I want schools to incorporate music and art and literature and new media and drama and every aspect of the arts within the school day. I want arts organisations to enable people of all ages to engage in their work in thrilling ways. I want people, including children to feel proud of their artistic and cultural achievements, and to have opportunities to get hands on with things they couldn't do at home - I always wanted to have a go at sculpting with stone rather than fiddling with potato prints. Professional artists working alongside communities and individuals can and do deliver extraordinary life-enhancing experiences.
But should this activity be circumscribed and headlined by a highly improbable numerical target? I suspect that rather than creating real, new, extraordinary activities that the most routine will be included by this number crunching daftness. Spent Sunday watching the telly and caught a bit of the latest period drama because your Mum insisted on watching it? Tick. Double period drama class on Thursday afternoon? Two ticks. Eng Lit on Friday morning? Tick. Recorder lesson? Tick.
I really don't mean to sound like a killjoy, but if we want a vibrant, culturally aware population it should be for everyone, not just a few pilot geographies in competition with each other (that post-code lottery thing). And all the pressures that stopped teachers taking pupils to the theatre (cost, overburdened curriculum, transport fears, excessive responsibility etc) and strangled peripatetic music services (too expensive, natch) is the stuff needing tackling. Humph.