The growing campaign against arts cuts
Sculptor Anish Kapoor, who created Sky Mirror and Marsyas, is the latest artist to protest at the Coalition’s cuts in arts funding. Kapoor, a former Turner Prize winner who has represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, said:
“I am particularly worried about the effect the proposed cuts are likely to have on museums and galleries, especially those outside London, some of which are likely to have to close.
“It seems short-sighted to me for the government to do such damage to the British cultural sector, which has made such a valuable contribution to the perception of Britain abroad.”
Last month, Jeremy Hunt announced the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Department has already withdrawn its contribution to the cost of a new BFI Film Centre; it is widely reported that Mr. Hunt has recommended redundancies of up to 50 per cent in his own Department.
Arts organisations have already taken a 3.5 per cent cut this year, and, as we noted last month, a coalition of major figures in the arts have written to Mr. Cameron, arguing that further cuts threaten “irreparable damage”; the coalition of the great and good included the Directors of the Tate, the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Serpentine Gallery, Sadler’s Wells theatre and the South Bank Centre.
The Coalition’s view is that the arts must make up for the loss of public funds with more effective fundraising, but individuals and organisations that are actually involved in arts fundraising have pointed out that donors often give only on the understanding that government funding is also available and that 40 per cent of arts bodies receive no private income at all and, of those that do, private investment accounts for just 15 per cent of their overall income. Representatives of the tourism industry (“the arts are to British tourism what the sun is to Spain”) have already shown their concern, and pointed out that, before the election, Mr Hunt said
“Our tourism industry feels betrayed by the [previous] government’s lack of interest.”
The arts unions have taken a leading role in campaigning against cuts, including the Writers’ Guild, BECTU and Equity – who have a very good campaign page on their website. The abolition of the UK Film Council has been the hardest cut so far, criticised by Lord Puttnam, Ronan Bennett, Liam Neeson and Jonathan Pryce. Other figures speaking out for arts funding include Lee Hall (author of Billy Elliott), Richard Mantle (Director of Opera North) and Antony Gormley (sculptor of the Angel of the North).
If you hear of other prominent people opposing the cuts, do let us know and we’ll update this list every so often.