Arts funding: A view from a regional theatre

Posted on 16 August 2013

How can we effectively alert the public to what is happening to their arts and culture provision?

I firmly believe that one of the things that is great about Great Britain is its arts and culture. It’s great for those of us living here, because we enjoy/are stimulated/are educated by experiencing it directly – which we do regularly on TV, on the radio, in our music players – and that is before we go out to a theatre or visit a museum or gallery. And it’s great because people who don’t live here admire and respect our arts and culture. They admire it because it’s such a high standard, which has been mined from a long history of sustained funding from the public purse which both enables the work itself and enables us to earn from the work.

Another thing I believe is great about Great Britain is its sense of fairness and fair play. Fairness has long been rooted in our culture – it’s an Anglo Saxon word. So that’s why – in recent history at least – art and culture has been made available throughout the country, so that access is not simply the preserve of those who live in the biggest cities, or those who have a lot of disposable income.

Yet for the sake of very few pennies indeed (less than 0.5% of all government funding) the arts and culture network is being dismantled. In economic terms it makes no sense, let alone social terms – for every £1 of public money spent on arts and culture £4 is generated for the economy. I think the impact of the ongoing cuts will be felt most keenly outside the biggest cities – and let’s face it most of the population live outside the few biggest cities.

Arts funding is a complex world, I know, but what is happening in the arts and culture world, is that the drastic and steady erosion of public funding from a London-based central Government (cuts funnelled through both the Arts Council and Local Authorities) is going to have a sharp impact on everyone who doesn’t live in London. This doesn’t seem fair, let alone sensible.

We need to tap into the British sense of ‘fair play’ that, I believe, was a big factor in the recent Save the Forests campaign, where even city dwellers who don’t have regular access to any of the forests, could see the danger and still felt that they wanted those forests to be accessible to whoever could access them and still wanted their country to be the ‘green and pleasant’ land of history. So they stood up and said ‘not on my watch’ and the Government had to listen.

Wouldn’t it be great to galvanise that kind of support for arts and culture? I’m involved in various groups working on this thorny issue – how to remind the public that arts and culture touches their lives in many valuable ways, how to alert the public to the danger of this loss before it’s too late. How to get them to champion the very, very modest arts funding from the public purse (0.05% – not a lot, is it?).

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