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What Next? Arts Leaders' Letter to the Government

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Many of the UK’s leading cultural figures gathered at the Young Vic today (24 March 2011) to discuss the future of arts funding. Attendees and speakers at the What Next? Event - including former National Theatre artistic director Richard Eyre, Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly and Young Vic artistic director David Lan - asked the coalition government to articulate its policy for public investment in the arts beyond the current spending round.

The event coincides with a letter to the Prime Minister, delivered to Downing Street today, asking for a meeting and signed by the hosts of What Next? as well as several other key industry figures. The letter acknowledges the Government’s commitment to the arts and asks for reassurance that the current cuts to funding do not “indicate an intention to reduce public investment in the arts in the longer term, irrespective of the UK’s economic fortunes.”

The other signatories included RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, Royal Opera House chief executive Tony Hall and dancer/ choreographer Akram Khan. The full text of the “What Next?” letter is reprinted below.

Speaking at today’s event, David Lan asked: “When the deficit has been paid off, or half paid off as the government has said they can achieve in four or five years: what will happen then? What’s our plan? We’re here to start the conversation.”

Today’s event was attended by 500 members of the arts industry and supporters including philanthropists, members of the business community, educationalists and participants. It was streamed online at www.whatnextarts.com where it will be available for viewing until the end of April.

Dear Prime Minister

We know that your government values the arts and understands their ability to transform lives and build communities. We are therefore writing to you to ask that the Coalition Government opens a dialogue with the cultural sector on its long term policy for public investment in the arts and the cultural fabric of this country.

We accept that an immediate reduction in public investment in the arts is unavoidable. We are, however, deeply concerned that the cut of 30% to the Arts Council’s core budget and of 15% to national museums may indicate an intention to reduce public investment in the arts in the longer term, irrespective of the UK’s economic fortunes. We believe that to continue into the future with the levels of investment planned for 2011 to 2014 will do lasting damage to the sector’s capacity to deliver the public and social benefits it can provide. The pressure on local authority budgets is of special concern, since this is already having an impact on the local, small scale and grassroots organisations that are the seed bed for social growth.

As is widely recognised, a comparatively small quantity of public investment in the arts provides the R&D that feeds our famously thriving and profitable creative industries. As makers and producers of the arts and culture we develop innovative relationships, expand our audiences, diversify our income, explore and exploit new technologies. But to go further we need your help.

We welcome the government’s recent measures to make it easier for people to give to charities. Nonetheless, we need public investment at national and local level to develop new work and new ways of working in communities that cannot afford access to the arts.

We worry that the unintended consequences of proposed policies in the education sector limit young people’s access to creativity and cultural learning. We watch with concern how changes in Higher Education funding will affect students of arts and humanities as well as the many types of vocational training the arts and culture rely on.

With your help we can make the highest level of artistic achievement widely available, enhancing the wellbeing of millions while enlarging our understanding of the world we share. Culture delights, unites, enlightens, transforms, provokes, enrages. We hope you agree that it is not an embellishment of democracy, but is essential to a creative and open society.

We hope that you will be willing to meet a group of us to explore what progress we might make in achieving what we are sure are very similar goals for the future.

Yours sincerely

Gemma Bodinetz - Artistic Director Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
Michael Boyd - Artistic Director Royal Shakespeare Company
Farooq Chaudhry - Producer Akram Khan Company
Christina Coker - Chief Executive Youth Music
Marcus Davey - Chief Executive and Artistic Director the Roundhouse
Siobhan Davies - Artistic Director Siobhan Davies Dance, Studios and Relay
Richard Eyre - Director
Shreela Ghosh - Director Free Word
Tony Hall - Chief Executive Royal Opera House
Karena Johnson - Chief Executive & Artistic Director The Broadway, Barking
David Jubb - Joint Artistic Director and Chief Executive Battersea Arts Centre
Jude Kelly - Artistic Director Southbank Centre
Akram Khan - Artistic Director/Choreographer/Dancer
Judith Knight - Director Artsadmin
David Lan - Artistic Director Young Vic
Richard Mantle - General Director Opera North
Sandy Nairne - Director National Portrait Gallery
Lucy Perman - Executive Director Clean Break
Mark Rubinstein - Producer
Anthony Sargent - General Director The Sage Gateshead
Charles Saumarez Smith - Chief Executive Royal Academy of Arts
Jenny Sealey - Artistic Director Graeae Theatre Company
Alistair Spalding - Chief Executive and Artistic Director Sadler’s Wells
Gavin Stride - Director Farnham Maltings
Kenneth Tharp - Chief Executive The Place
David Whelton - Managing Director Philharmonia Orchestra

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