In an interview on the status of his war-torn country, Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said that among the fakes seized in Damascus are 30 ancient Bibles and 450 gold medieval coins, in addition to numerous Korans, mosaic tableaus, and statues. Lebanon is currently the only country working with Syria in its anti-looting investigation. While Abdulkarim does not expect non-participants Turkey and Jordan to return all objects to Syria, he hopes that they will publicly report what they had taken and provide data to UNESCO and Interpol. Abdulkarim also discussed restoration efforts in Palmyra, confirming that more than 90% of artifacts are safe in the city, which was recaptured from ISIS in March. He also asks for the help of the Western community: “I appeal at all times for French archaeologists, British archaeologists, German archaeologists to come.” Concerning Aleppo, he is less optimistic: More than 150 historic structures have been damaged amidst continued violence in Syria’s largest city. The antiquities chief has been acknowledged internationally for his efforts to protect a shared heritage. “I refuse to use our cultural interest for political agendas. It’s our common heritage, it’s our common identity,” he said. “The politics will change, but the heritage won’t change.”
09 Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the U.K. Labour Party, plans to provide primary schools in England with cash to fund arts activities.
At Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, Corbyn announced his plans for an arts “pupil premium” following the model of grants already in place for physical education and athletics. The politician—whose leadership is currently challenged by Owen Smith—pledged to reverse the £42.8 million cuts to central funding and grants to the Arts Councils of England and Wales and Creative Scotland by cancelling the Conservatives’ planned capital gains tax cut. A portion of the estimated £670 million resulting from this CGT cut would go towards providing schools with a cash boost for the arts. In doing so, Corbyn hopes to meet the average spending of EU states on arts and culture (0.5% of GDP) and encourage low-income communities to participate in the arts. “Drawing on Britain’s rich cultural heritage, Labour under my leadership will commit to extending access and participation in the arts to all people and all communities across Britain,” he said. “There is creativity in all of us but we need to give people the opportunities for this creativity to flourish.” Though currently planned for primary schools only, the arts pupil premium could later be expanded to secondary schools. In addition to the proposed grant, Corbyn revealed a number of plans for the arts and culture, including a law that will require councils to provide a library service; a moratorium on the privatization of museum services; increased distribution of cultural funds to the English regions; a national program for arts scholarships; and a discussion of dance and drama in the national curriculum.
10 The Italian government will offer a “cultural bonus” worth over $500 to every 18-year-old in an attempt to balance counter-terrorism spending with an investment in culture.
Starting next month, Italians citizens and legal residents born in 1998 will be eligible to receive a “cultural bonus” of €500 to use towards cultural enrichment. Young people who turn 18 this year will be able to register on a government website
and then spend the money through the program’s “18app” app, which participants can download onto smartphones, tablets, or computers. Government undersecretary Tommaso Nannicini said of the bonus, “The message is that our community embraces your adulthood and reminds you of the importance of cultural consumption; not only for your personal enrichment but also to strengthen the country’s social fabric.” The nearly 575,000 teenagers who will benefit from the initiative will have through the end of 2017 to spend their stipend on books, museums, exhibitions, theater, and concerts, but not on recorded music, something the head of the Italian Music Industry Federation Enzo Mazza sees as a snub to the recording industry. When Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced the program last November, 10 days after the terror attacks in Paris, he said the Italian government would commit to increasing defense and security spending by €1 billion, but that this investment in public safety must be matched by an investment in cultural programs. “We will not give in to terror,” Renzi said. “We have centuries of history that proclaim the fact that culture will beat ignorance, that beauty is more tenacious than barbarism.”