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A cultured recession

The culture industries make nice-to-have products, not necessities—which is why recessions can hurt them. But in Britain, state funding means that high-minded art not only survives the downturn, but has a better chance to be heard through the hubbub

By Mark Lawson   December 2008

The opening of Billy Elliot on Broadway this autumn offers a neat parable of culture in the credit crunch. A hit in London for the last three years, it’s one of a small group of successful musicals set during economic recessions; others include Annie and Cabaret. But the American premiere of Elton John and Lee Hall’s piece faces a potential misfortune: the economic hardship on stage—the northeast of England during the 1984 miners’ strike—will be echoed by the financial crisis hitting the people being asked to buy tickets. The strenuous advertising and special ticket offers on display in New York…

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