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You can cut us but don’t kill us say the UK’s cultural leaders

  • Date: 15 July 2010
  • Area: National

Today, many of the leaders of Britain's most prominent cultural institutions - speaking on behalf of organisations across the whole country - appealed directly to the Prime Minister not to cause irreparable damage to our most economically successful sector in the imminent Spending Review.

They argue that while the cultural sector is willing to play its part in the country's economic recovery with realistic cuts, the 25 per cent to 40 per cent cuts being proposed would be catastrophic as they come on top of 3.5 per cent cuts this year as well as the cultural sector's £322 million contribution to the costs of the Olympics.

The directors warn that the cumulative effect of these cuts could lead to the closure or partial closure of leading national museums, galleries and theatres, as well as of many arts organisations across the country. This would reverse the gains that have been made since 1992 in the international standing of the UK's cultural organisations, leading to the loss of irreplaceable expertise, and for a generation of children and young people much diminished access to their culture and heritage.

The national directors are deeply concerned that the cultural sector's unique model of mixed funding, which is admired all over the world, will be severely damaged by the depth and extent of the cuts being discussed. The government's proposal that renewed efforts should be made to attract philanthropy is welcome, especially if it were to be accompanied by tax incentives. However, such new giving cannot be expected to make good immediate shortfalls, a view shared by a group of leading British philanthropists who have written to the government to express this view.

The arts are a great British success story. The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP, and every £1 invested in culture produces £2. Two thirds of the adult population in the UK enjoy the arts, visit historic sites and go to museums and galleries. Of the top 10 UK visitor attractions, 8 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.

With the eyes of the world on Britain during the Olympic year, 2012, it is also essential that our cultural institutions and attractions continue to deliver the quality and range of programmes that are admired across the world.

The national directors point out that in the US the Obama administration recognised the important contribution of culture to the country's economic recovery and increased the arts budget. New York's City Council also recently reversed its cut in arts funding because they are 'an important source of money for the city through tourism and contribute to the public's quality of life.' In Canada, a recent submission of proposed cuts by the Canada Council asked for by the Canadian Treasury Department were rejected as these programmes were thought to be crucial to Canada's national prosperity.