The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Show Must Go On

What would you do with £1.57 billion?

That’s the sum of money the government promised to the UK arts industry last week. It’s good news for venues, performers, and patrons facing an uncertain future in our post-pandemic world. But what will they do with the money?

Pressingly, there are venues to upkeep, furlough schemes to continue, and performances to be rescheduled. These costs help make up an industry that annually contributes to the UK economy an amount of money not far short of the government grant. From a purely economic point of view, the arts are worth the investment.

But the primary purpose of the £1.57 billion is not profit, because the arts industry contributes something to our country beyond its GDP. The plays, films, musicals, ballets, museums, and exhibitions, in the venues that house them, via the people who bring them to life, all serve a greater purpose: storytelling.

Storytelling is an essential part of our human experience. Stories reflect our own nature back to us, paint pictures of lives lived to the full, and warn us against the pursuit of false gods. To tell these stories is the job of the arts in all their forms. For this reason, if nothing else, the arts matter.

The Christian gospel tells its own story of our humanness, of life to the full, of God and false gods. When that story is told through the arts, Christians tend to pay attention. But to only pay attention when the gospel is explicit is to miss the fullness of what the arts have to offer.

After all, Paul encouraged his readers to look for ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable… anything [that] is excellent or praiseworthy’ (Philippians 4:8, emphasis added). Of course, not every story told through the arts will be equally true, noble, right or pure. But Christians have reason to stand both in rapturous applause from the Hamilton stalls and in quiet reverence before Dame Kelly Holmes in the National Portrait Gallery – anywhere and everywhere we enjoy stories that echo the story that we live by.

So the government grant is not only good news for those who work in the arts industry. £1.57bn is about to be spent on storytelling. That’s good news for anyone interested in being human, which means that it is good news for Christians too.


Tim Yearsley
Programme Leader – Emerging Generations, LICC


Tim Yearsley


  1. Not convinced the backdrop to the letter to Philippians supports the application of 4v8 in the way the writer has suggested.

    Tim, could you elaborate on your choice of art which you state Christian’s should ‘stand’ with or ‘echo the story we live by’ please i.e. the show Hamilton and the portrait of Kelly Holmes.


    By Brian Smith  -  17 Jul 2020
  2. Well said, Tim. There’s things we value that we want to keep.

    By Will Parker  -  17 Jul 2020

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