In the run-up to the General Election on 7 June 2001, The Shadow Arts Council (SAC), chaired by Sir Peter Hall (pictured), has issued a timely Election Manifesto for the Arts. It calls on candidates for office to "commit themselves to a major revival of Government support for the arts", and places strong emphasis on the contribution of the arts towards the British economy. Recommendations to enhance arts education in schools are also made.

The SAC acknowledges that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Arts Council of England have managed to secure promises of funding increases. However, it points out that any new money is only a first step and won't be available until 2003, leaving many arts organisations in a difficult position. The campaign also condemns the sidelining of "innovation and risk in favour of the populist, the best selling and the safe".

Referring to the digital era's "knowledge economy", the manifesto underlines the importance of the arts in economic terms to governments of all political persuasions. It praises the role of Britain's "creative industry" partners in attracting worldwide audiences for the nation's cultural achievements, whilst stating that many artists and related organisations currently exist below acceptable subsistence levels. The threat of bankruptcy, claims the SAC, forces many into producing "safe programmes" of work.

The council declares education to be vital to personal development, and wants the arts to "regain their proper place in the National Curriculum... and have a conspicuous place in curricular activities". To help fund its objectives, the SAC calls for a doubling of present funding levels by the end of the next Parliament and for local cultural strategies to replace the role of Regional Arts Boards.

Launching the manifesto, Sir Peter Hall said, "There is a huge amount of creative talent that is failing to find outlets, for lack of adequate funding. This wastes our cultural resources. Even the new money for theatre, welcome though it is, doesn't make up for years of standstill and reduction".

Deputy Chairman, John Tusa stated, "There are still too many arts organisations on standstill funding. The Government says it understands changes are needed. It will be good to see this put into practice".

- by Gareth Thompson