Arts Council England Chief Executive Alan Davey will today call (Wednesday 21 October) for any future government to maintain levels of investment in the arts because to do so is ‘rational, economically sound and essential to our quality of life.’
In his keynote speech at the ‘Culture Is Right’ conference held in the Unicorn Theatre on London’s South Bank, Davey will challenge those who argue that subsidising the arts does not offer value for money. He will illustrate how every £1 of public money invested in the arts levers in a further £2 from elsewhere, creates jobs and contributes significantly to the fastest growing sector of our national economy.
Alan Davey will say:
“Culture is important for any Government which places quality of life for its citizens at the heart of its agenda; …(to) any Government that wants to encourage a distinctive national cultural identity which gives and adds value in a national and global context; any Government which looks forward to strengthening the bedrock of a creative, knowledge–based economy; any Government that is interested in continuing to attract global investment in our economy; and to any Government that is interested in developing a thriving visitor economy.
“To do this we need a thriving arts and cultural infrastructure that gives artists the opportunity to create, and to make a living from practicing their art. If we don’t start with the art, nothing of the above happens.”
Davey also speaks of the disproportionate effect of cuts to public arts spending: “…not all public spending is bad;…ours works hard and because of this, there is a disproportionate effect when it is cut. We’re also small, less than 0.1% of public expenditure. What we do affects the kind of country we are. John Major once said ‘man cannot live by GDP alone’. I’ll argue that arts spending adds to GDP but gives you much more.”
His keynote speech outlines the ways in which Arts Council England is working in closer partnership with the bodies it funds to help them towards a sustainable future – making hard decisions, finding new business models and improving the range and flexibility of funding agreements.
Directly addressing any future government, Davey concludes:
“We will work with you to make our contribution better understood. Please understand the mechanism you have, and the effects of formulaic cuts. Public investment in the arts works hard: the system you have is unique and should be celebrated.
“So I hope any government will not solely return to a Millsean view of the most efficient creation of wealth being the sole aim of any society. While I have shown how arts money works hard, and does create wealth, it has an ultimate end that Ruskin knew was important to any society – the creation of beauty, and something that goes beyond the material and straight to who we are. Don’t let’s be afraid of talking about that – because it does matter.
“The role of artists is to give expression and meaning to the world around us, and the role of funders is to support them in what they do best – to challenge, to thrill, to excite and to inspire us; to produce the marvellous and the beautiful.
“To do so is also rational, economically sound, and is essential to our quality of life.”
Other speakers at the two day ‘Culture Is Right’ event include Ed Vaizey, Shadow Arts Minister; Munira Murza, Director of Arts Strategy GLA; Tony Hall, CEO Royal Opera House and Tom Bewick, CEO Creative & Cultural Skills.