We live on an island that birthed Western theatre. From the reign of Shakespeare in Elizabethan England to the contemporary comedy-of-menace our dear Pinter perfected, we have considered the theatre a sacred space where gender, class and race can set aside their differences and be absorbed into the same spectacle. So why now do we care so little for the theatres and drama organisations that fuelled our world for centuries?
2010 was a sad year for the arts. Reliance on the government was certainly stirred after funding to the art’s budget was cut by thirty percent – as if the arts weren’t treated badly enough already. These cuts came after the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that the arts are ‘fundamentally important’ to the Tory party and, by and large, the economy.
The governments decision for the funding of the arts echoes the incentives of the Tory party in the 1980s, where the party stood by the belief that the Arts Council should be ‘progressively reduced’. Such a beautiful thought from the past, but what makes it worse is that, in the present day, the funding through grant-in-aid and National Lottery contributions is five percent less than in 2010!
When will this craziness end?! The National Lottery contributions are considered an ‘additionality principle’ by the Arts Council, used for the sole purpose of funding extra activities and theatre events, not the core running costs of the organisation. George Osbourne, our current First Secretary of State, has provided some relief for the Arts Council by adding an annual extra £10m to the organisations in order to maintain upkeep of the core running costs. These costs are beneficial for the museums, galleries and theatres that keep Britain’s art culture alive. However, this is not the end of the turmoil – there’s so much more.
The problem for the next five years no longer lies in the government contributions to the Arts Council and the arts organisations, it lies in the local government spending cuts. Whilst most individuals involved with the Arts Council and their organisations did not fully oppose Mr Osbourne’s decision for the spending review, many have concerns for the future state of the arts if local government spending cuts continue and increase.
Many of the Arts Council organisations already rely on more than one of the source grants from the core fund. Such an example of local authority cuts can be seen in the recent announcement made by the Birmingham City Council, who stated a twenty-five percent cut to the arts fund will soon be in effect. These local government cuts affect many of the UK’s civic museums and arts-associated establishments; within Birmingham, the new arts fund will inadvertently target important organisations, such as the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Royal Ballet.
Nonetheless, the arts are not as weak as they appear. The strains of the local and national government cuts have meant that arts organisations have had to think outside the normal routes of funding and have turned to more creative methods of raising money, means such as philanthropy and relying on businesses to attract tourism towards the art organisations.
The role of shops and cafes is vital in maintaining an appeal to the arts and what they have to offer; they bring in a steady flow of individuals who are willing to invest in the local businesses as well as the arts. Organisations like Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy have been formed in order to revolutionise the funding of the arts and allow stability in an otherwise unpredictable economy.
No matter what you think of the arts, they are a valuable asset to the culture and spirit of Britain and their fate lies in whether we let them flourish to their full potential or fall when we need them most.