Arts Funding Information
This is a speech I made to introduce the Arts Index, a publication from The National Campaign for the Arts, of which I'm a trustee.
The Index is an annual health-check for the arts, compiled using figures from Arts and Business, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council Northern Ireland, Creative Scotland and The Department for Culture, Media & Sport. We’re very grateful to them for their contributions.
Thanks too to Don Foster MP for sponsoring the launch.
A free summary of the Arts Index can be found here: http://bit.ly/uhxEql. Members of the NCA can see the full report.
The NCA tries to bring people together, and if we’ve managed to do that today it’s thanks to the generosity of Don Foster. We’re also enormously grateful to Ed Vayzey and Dan Jarvis for coming, and for speaking.
Before I start, I want to wish happy tenth birthday to a scheme many thought wouldn’t live that long: free entry to museums. Although introduced by the last government, it was bravely continued by this one, and visitor numbers to national museums have more than doubled in a decade, from 7.2 million to a record 18 million a year. To all those in this room who joined us in the fight to continue free admission, a thousand thanks. The NCA believes that the best way to improve access to culture is to keep it cheap. People will come.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, times are tough. Why do we need art at all? Well, because it makes us laugh, and cry, and think. Because in a recession it’s important to do things together. And for another reason: because in the UK we’re really, really good at it - and it’s a profitable industry. We don’t make many things in this country any more, but we do make world class art.
Broadway is pretty moribund at the moment, but for the last two seasons the plays that have been making waves and winning Tonys over there have come from subsidised theatres over here. Shows like Red, from the Donmar Warehouse, The Pitmen Painters from Live Theatre in Newcastle, Jerusalem from the Royal Court and Warhorse from the National. There were ten Evening Standard Theatre Awards handed out last month. Nine of them went to the subsidised sector.
(I mention theatre, ‘cos that’s what I know about, but it’s true of many other art-forms - music for instance; someone here’s just told me that the UK is the second largest exporter of music in the world after the USA, and in 2009 music tourists in the UK spent £1.4bn at concerts and festivals).
The most important thing about a good idea is not how much it costs; as Billy Wilder pointed out, nobody ever says “you must go and see that movie, I hear it came in under budget.” The great ideas behind Warhorse, Jerusalem, even Les Miserables, came from long gestation supported by stable public funding. If in trying to drum up support for Les Miserables I’d called a hedge fund to say ‘How’d you like to back a musical adaptation of a 900-page Socialist novel by two unknown French guys?”, I don’t think they’d have called me back. Luckily, the RSC did, and Les Miserables has been paying VAT to the Treasury for 25 years.
Now art is subjective. How can you measure it? Why would you want to? I suggest, because the mixture of private and public funding we have now works, and we want to protect it. We’re grateful for the support of Government and as artists and responsible citizens we want to show that we’re not wasting money. The way the arts are funded is changing. Now perhaps more than ever, we need policy-makers and practitioners to speak to each other in a common language; objective, consistent, independent.
That’s where the Arts Index comes in. It’s an annual health-check of the arts in this country. Using publicly available data and twenty different indicators, it measures the stuff that goes in, like investment, and the stuff that comes out, like audience sizes. It allows us to put figures on the cultural, financial and social benefits of the arts. It lets us see how things like employment, volunteering, children’s attendance, have changed over time. And it tells this story across the regions, across the four UK nations and across the whole country.
So what’s the diagnosis? Let me put some flesh on the skeleton. The good news is that taken as a whole, the patient is well. The Overall Arts Index over the three years to 2010 is level, reflecting sustained investment and return on that investment over the previous decade. Witness the museum figures I mentioned earlier...
But looking under the skin of these figures, what’s the prognosis? In the three years measured by this first Arts Index, Business contributions are down 17%. Private giving is down 13%. Public funding to the end of 2009/10 stayed level. Next year’s Index, to be published in April, will take us to 2011 and see a cut of 15% in Arts Council and 28% in Local Government funding in England. Some authorities, like Somerset, have cut their arts budget by 100%. It may take a while for these falling input figures to show as falling output, but they will show. Arts organisations already operate a big society model of volunteers, interns and low wages. There’s not a lot of fat to cut. So we have to work ever harder for audiences and we have to look further for new money. If philanthropy is to offset cuts in public funding, let’s hope that the Government’s Catalyst scheme and the new beefed-up Cultural Gifts Scheme work. If they don’t, we’ll be back here in a couple of years hearing about a very different Index.
The West End, the heart of the patient, is doing well. The same number of people attend West End shows as go to Premiership football matches (In fact, given the 20 000 empty seats at Old Trafford on Wednesday, I think our audience is more sustainable). Blood flows from and to the heart, in the form of shows conceived further down the arts pyramid which continue to grow and flourish at the top.
Attendance, of adults and children, has stayed stable, and levels of satisfaction have risen slightly, although when it comes to that, the main message of the Index to artists and to local authorities alike is that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
And differences between the regions are huge. London’s way ahead, because it receives the most in private and also in public funding. Fair enough; London is a top cultural destination and many of our world famous arts organisations have their base here. But bits of the patient aren’t so healthy; I won’t say limbs are withering but investment varies so widely that some parts of the UK are in danger of being left behind. Local Government funding of £11.64 per person in the West Midlands compares to £6.85 per person in the South West. Treasury funding of £22.43 per person in London compares with £1.89 per person in the East of England.
This is the first UK Arts Index, but we want to publish it every year, updating and improving as we go. We want it to become the standard measure of the health of the arts, presented in a way that is reliable, digestible and compelling. We want you all to use it – artists, arts organisations, MPs, civil servants, ministers. So, please do take the time to look through the Index, and the figures for the region where you – and your constituents – live and work. And keep in touch: tell us how we can make it better, what else you would like to see measured. As I said at the start, the NCA’s role is to bring people together, to make debate and to change things. We think the Arts Index is a great way to do that.
We’ve got the facts now. The rest is up to us.
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