Heads of major arts organisations including the Arts Council, National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company have appealed directly to prime minister David Cameron in a bid to avoid "catastrophic" funding cuts in the imminent Spending Review.

The move comes after culture minister Ed Vaizey asked all major arts funding bodies to show how they would handle cuts of 25 or 30 percent.

Representatives from Arts Council England, the National Theatre, Sadler's Wells, Royal Shakespeare Company, Tate, Barbican and Southbank Centre were among those stating their case at a press briefing held in London this morning.

"The arts are a great British success story", they said in a joint statement. "The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP, and every one pound invested in culture produces two pounds. Two thirds of the adult population in the UK enjoy the arts, visit historic sites and go to museums and galleries. Of the top ten UK visitor attractions, eight are national museums."

"The cultural sector has made a real contribution to the country's social and economic recovery through offering work, learning, training and social engagement. The arts represent the creative future on which Britain's economy depends."

They also observed that the fresh cuts come on top of 3.5% cuts this year as well as the cultural sector’s £322 million contribution to the costs of the Olympics.

National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner told Whatsonstage.com: "The National Theatre may be able to weather this storm, but I am deeply concerned about the large network of regional, experimental and fringe theatres for whom a 25% cut would be, bluntly, catastrophic."

Arts Council England (ACE) last month announced it has been asked to make another £19 million of cuts to its 2010/11 budget. This came in the wake of an earlier in-year reduction of £4 million announced in the April 2009 Budget, meaning that the Arts Council’s original 2010/11 budget has been reduced by a total of £23 million from £468 million to £445 million.

Vaizey, who has said previously that those in the culture sector must "take their share of the burden", replied today: "Nobody should be in any doubt at all that we strongly support the work that arts organisations do in this country, but equally they have to be in no doubt at all that we face a very tough financial environment left for us by the last Labour government."

"We're going to work together to make sure that we can continue to deliver first class arts to as many people as possible but we have to work together to make this happen."

The government hopes that the contribution of private donations will help plug the arts funding gap, but according to the BBC a collection of the country's leading philanthropists are writing to David Cameron warning that this is "overly optimistic".


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