Cultural Leaders in the North East Add Voice to National Debate on Funding Cuts
GATESHEAD.- Today, leaders of some of the North East’s principal, building based, arts organisations and prominent artists from the region voiced their concerns about the impact of deep or hasty cuts to the arts budget, warning that a hard won sense of place and confidence could be put at risk.
Cultural venues across the North East have powerfully demonstrated that working in partnership with artists of international standing makes a tangible difference to the communities in which they work. From the transformative power of Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, to the investment which has been made in the international quality of new and refurbished cultural facilities, this region has ensured that culture creates pride, confidence and genuine regeneration.
Between the 10 principal cultural venues in NewcastleGateshead, at least £4 is generated for every £1 of public subsidy received – this economic impact represents almost 2000 jobs and the very substantial contribution local, national and international visitors make when they spend money in these buildings.
“Whilst we understand the need for savings to be made, we urge the Government not to damage beyond repair the success story that is culture in the North East,” said Erica Whyman, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Northern Stage.
Jim Beirne, Chief Executive of Live Theatre comments: “Long term investment by Arts Council England in cultural organisations enables them to develop long term partnerships with artists. This approach can reap extraordinary rewards and international success. ‘The Pitmen Painters’ written by Lee Hall, commissioned by Live Theatre in 2007 opens on Broadway in September and is a perfect example of the success of this strategy. Significant cuts to the modest budgets of Arts Council England will have an exponential affect on the capacity of cultural institutions to deliver the international success, (and as result revenue into the economy), that the arts in the UK represent.”
Internationally renowned Northumbrian small pipes musician Kathryn Tickell, visual artists the Wilson Twins and film maker Ridley Scott are all examples of artists who have been nurtured and encouraged in this region and have gone on to bring international acclaim to the UK. This would not have happened without strong regional institutions.
Newcastle-born Lee Hall, author of Billy Elliot and The Pitmen Painters has this to say: “The proposed cuts for Arts Organisations are economically and culturally disastrous. I am about to take the last play I did with Live Theatre to Broadway. It’s already done 3 sell out runs in London and a national commercial tour. Billy Elliot has played around the world to nearly 4 million people. Theatre in Britain is an economic powerhouse the VAT on the West End alone brings in more than the subsidy – it’s simply crazy and short sighted to cut off the blood supply. Nearly every commercial cultural project providing jobs for thousands of people was in some way initially funded by government subsidy. This is a cultural disaster and economic inanity. I strongly urge Jeremy Hunt and the Coalition government to think again.”
British sculptor Antony Gormley, said: “Arts funding is not about encouraging limp dependency but about allowing things that would not exist to come alive and in the process make us more so. There is no sense in denying the vitality of the new, untried, untested. This is where the future comes from. The economic argument simply does not wash: the investment in art is repaid many times over. We are living in an unprecedented time of creative richness in the U.K and this is the reason people want to come. Why on earth destroy it?”
Artists who live or make work in this region are inspired by the passion that the people of the north east have for the arts, and the world-wide recognition of the role that the arts have played in its regeneration.
The arts cannot be exempt from cuts, but the North East arts community urges the government to think carefully about both local pride and international export – and the key role that the arts play in communities across the UK.