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Arts funding, writing to your MP

Quite recently I wrote to my MP. I used A great, non-profit service (incidentally one of my friends, in my school class, was a founding force for this but very sadly he died recently) that helps to ensure your MP works for you, and you know what they are doing.

This is part of her reply:

Investment in the arts is one of the signs of a civilised society.
Spending on the arts increased hugely in the early part of this decade,
quite rightly, and  we have many things to show for it (numbers
attending free museums and galleries, for example). Of course we should
campaign to maintain high levels of spending, because public pressure
matters. However, this has to be set in a broader context. There are
huge demands on public spending- housing, schools, the NHS, the rising
pensions bills, the fact that we are still only getting on for halfway
towards our target to end child poverty and so forth, whilst there also
remains a powerful political lobby for tax cuts and reduced public
spending. I am more than happy to continue to lobby for more money, but
not at the expense of other essential areas of public spending.

 to my questioning / lobbying on arts funding levels. I’ve never lobbied for anything before.

I know much bigger fish than me lobbied direct to Gordon Brown et al and this week we have heard in the pre-budget report that Chancellor, Alistair Darling confirmed this week that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s allotment would increase from £1.68 billion to £2.21 billion in 2010/11, a settlement which he said “guarantees an inflation increase for the arts”.

So the result: a 2.7% inflation level increase in DCMS funding, which the government has guaranteed will be passed onto the arts.

Tony Hall (Royal Opera House) described the settlement as “the best result we could have won”, while National Campaign for the Arts director Louise de Winter said the funding package was “very good news”. She told The Stage: “We’d like to think that we made a strong case for arts funding and thankfully government has listened. There is still one small fly in the ointment though – the relief is slightly tempered by the Olympics issue – what the arts are still missing is the £137 million which was diverted to the Olympics.”

Lyn Gardner is more guarded. She is not cracking open the champagne. She identifies a point that I wrote to my MP about. She writes

While we are about it, let’s remember that the money that the government gives to the arts is not a handout but an investment. The arts gives more back to the economy than it takes in subsidies, but what cannot be measured is what it gives back in nurturing the imaginative health and well-being of the nation.

And I wrote to my MP:

On arts spending, obviously there are other pressures such as housing,
schools etc, but part of the problem is that the benefit of the arts
by its very nature is “intangible” it can not truly be measured by
attendance of galleries. One of the theoretical reasons, humans are
quite so bad at looking after the environment is the fact the tangible
cost/benefit is very hard to measure in monetary terms for the
environment – what price the ecosystem of a forest? As a theatre
writer amongst other things, I don’t think a civilised society could
put the arts above, for instance, child poverty but without the arts
and the ability to explore what it means to be human – a measure that
can not be measured in GDP, life expectancy or waiting lists
– then
our children will remain poor in other important ways too. I would ask
you to bear in mind the intangible nature of this investment and the
fact that we may very well not have that much tangible to show for it.

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One Response to “Arts funding, writing to your MP”

  1. rednose on October 18th, 2007

    Hi There

    Great work. Always nice to see results.

    I am very interested in making money out of “poor man’s” theatre. I’ve recently started a theatre organization that is structured in a more business-like way, so as to try and make more money. I also have a number of different ideas to try and develop fan-bases for new companies, so that they are waiting for the audience to come to them, but are instead bringing the audience back to themselves again and again.

    Further to this, I’ve thought up other ways of trying to make more money for fledgling companies and individual actors alike.

    Currently though, I’ve been thinking about the reason for the lack of money in theatre and I think I may have come up with an answer.

    Religion is a belief and to a great extent keeps itself alive through the understanding that because it is believed it is therefor true. It is also possible to say that in the eyes of society, for centuries women were seen as being inferior to men and maybe because it was believed, it was seen to be true. (This isn’t about religion of sexism though)
    My point is that maybe, because it has been believed for so long that theatre is a poorly paid profession, it is now understood that it is so. No Questions Asked. Maybe society’s view is adding to or even causing the lack of remuneration for performers?
    This view or belief could be having a negative effect on the performers and hence leads us to have to rely on donations, government grants and investments rather than being able to go ahead and start building the infrastructure of the Arts. Much like a drug addict becomes reliant on the drugs they use.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this or if you want to write a paper together, that too would be wonderful.

    Hope you’re having a fantastic day


  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen