Economy is creativity

The Arts Council of England has warned that cutting nearly a third of its funding over the next four years would mean that 200 arts organisations out of the 850 it supports would not get funding.

The Conservatives clearly have no commitment to the arts in our communities and nations.

They talked of maintaining a vibrant cultural sector – but in the
nine commitments they put forward for the field of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport there were but two goals for culture: to maintain free entry to national museums and galleries and to “cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music”. Those were bleak and limited goals if the target was indeed a vibrant culture.

Yet there are many studies demonstrating that investment in the arts reaps benefits in jobs, economic growth, increased government revenue – and, especially, a quality of life that positions communities to become active members of the 21st-century creative economy.

“Our members in theatres and arts centres are worried, rightly.”

We are hearing from all quarters that the way forward is through a “knowledge economy”: but a key part of the knowledge must be creative. To build their skills to compete in the global economy, creative practitioners must practice, and to practice they need to work!

The study Arts and Economic Prosperity, from Americans for the Arts, shows that across the US every $1 invested by local, state and federal government is returned 7 times.

The Arts Council of England, along with other arts and heritage organisations, launched Cultural Capital – A Manifesto for the Future on 1 April this year. Its subtitle is “Investing in culture will build Britain’s social and economic recovery”.

It is an intelligent and reasoned argument of the value of the arts to the economy of the country. It was launched with much fanfare: but little seems to have come of it.

The Coalition Government seems to wants to drip-feed its cuts and reorganisations. I might be being cynical here, but this does make it very difficult for high profile campaigns.

Sir Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former director of the National Theatre, said at an awards ceremony on 28 November: “I feel really ill at the thought of 50 years being thrown away.” He believes that the attitude of the government is that the arts can be cut because they are successful and says “We’ve got to make noises, loud noises…”

Our members in theatres and arts centres are worried, rightly. The government’s attitude seems to be, “Go and find yourself a patron. We can fund our arts like they do in America.”

But some top philanthropists have said this won’t work. For one thing, we don’t have the tax laws to encourage donations on the scale necessary. For another, if we are talking about funding, tickets to a Broadway show can be more than £80 and the top price for the Metropolitan Opera in New York can be £270 – though the Metropolitan Opera is the most-endowed arts organisations in the world, it says that donations are down.

Sir Nicholas Hynter, the present National Theatre director, has said,
“The National Theatre’s production of War Horse, which is generating a great deal of revenue for both us and the private sector, would have been impossible without sustained investment allowing us to create it over the course of 18 months of workshops.”

Categories: Arts, Theatre

Picture of Christine Bond