As Molesworth might have said in Down With Skool, ‘any fule kno’ that the impact the Romans have had on us is an unending list of civilising benefits. Just take our roads as an example: they are long, straight, invariably lead to Rome, catalyse industrial growth and are directly responsible for Motorway Service Stations.

The Arts, like any industry, have been blessed by the Roman approach to road building: we now regularly talk about arts and cultural infrastructure as if it were some kind of super cultural highway system. That infrastructure creates the biggest cultural players, determines how they connect with each other, and sets the rules on who else benefits from the nation’s cultural highways. It has its own version of the Highway Code with qualifications, progression opportunities and rules of engagement to boot.

But what happens when the Romans leave town?

We’re seeing the effect of that now on our cultural highways and byways. Roads fall into disrepair. Potholes are rife. Signage points in the wrong direction. We realise we’ve become reliant on a system which cannot do everything it promised to. The centre, as usual, can’t hold and things start to fall apart.

What we forget in this ever increasing gloom are the byways which existed before the Romans ever trampled over our green and pleasant land. We used to have green roads, white roads, death roads and all manner of connections which allowed us to connect with differing communities. With cultural infrastructures such as the Arts Council and local authorities undergoing whole sale restructuring, the Romans are now leaving town too. The exodus of cultural traffic is grid locking our cities and in our countrysides, there are too many lorries for not enough country mile.

Many cultural organisations now can’t rely on the infrastructures of old to do what they need doing. We now need to reinvest ourselves in those ancient highways and byways and make new connections which don’t rely on the grace, favour and declining ability of those tired funders of old to help us plot our way through the current cultural geography.

It’s now time to make new cultural spaces and places, new coherent multi-nodal cultural spaces which demonstrate how cultural villages can connect, supply each other, develop their own longevity and take some ownership back of their own destiny.

What did the Romans ever do for us? Too much. It’s time we started doing it for ourselves.

Nick Owen MBE