LONDON.- Yesterday, many of the leaders of Britain's most prominent cultural institutions - speaking on behalf of organisations across the whole country - appealed directly to the Prime Minister not to cause irreparable damage to our most economically successful sector in the imminent Spending Review.
They argue that while the cultural sector is willing to play its part in the countrys economic recovery with realistic cuts, the 25% - 40% cuts being proposed would be catastrophic as they come on top of 3.5% cuts this year as well as the cultural sectors £322 million contribution to the costs of the Olympics.
The directors warn that the cumulative effect of these cuts could lead to the closure or partial closure of leading national museums, galleries and theatres, as well as of many arts organisations across the country. This would reverse the gains that have been made since 1992 in the international standing of the UKs cultural organisations, leading to the loss of irreplaceable expertise, and for a generation of children and young people much diminished access to their culture and heritage.
The national directors are deeply concerned that the cultural sectors unique model of mixed funding, which is admired all over the world, will be severely damaged by the depth and extent of the cuts being discussed. The government's proposal that renewed efforts should be made to attract philanthropy is welcome, especially if it were to be accompanied by tax incentives. However, such new giving cannot be expected to make good immediate shortfalls, a view shared by a group of leading British philanthropists who have written to the government to express this view.
The arts are a great British success story. The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP, and every £1 invested in culture produces £2. Two thirds of the adult population in the UK enjoy the arts, visit historic sites and go to museums and galleries. Of the top 10 UK visitor attractions, 8 are national museums. The cultural sector has made a real contribution to the countrys social and economic recovery through offering work, learning, training and social engagement. The arts represent the creative future on which Britains economy depends.
With the eyes of the world on Britain during the Olympic year, 2012, it is also essential that our cultural institutions and attractions continue to deliver the quality and range of programmes that are admired across the world.
The national directors point out that in the US the Obama administration recognised the important contribution of culture to the countrys economic recovery and increased the arts budget. New Yorks City Council also recently reversed its cut in arts funding because they are an important source of money for the city through tourism and contribute to the publics quality of life. In Canada, a recent submission of proposed cuts by the Canada Council asked for by the Canadian Treasury Department were rejected as these programmes were thought to be crucial to Canadas national prosperity.
The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world relative to GDP.
Every £1 invested in culture produces £2.
In the last 10 years, the creative and cultural industries have grown faster than any other sector, accounting for 2 million jobs and £16.6 billion of exports in 2007.
Total cultural spending represents only 1% of the NHS budget.
Eight of the UKs top ten visitor attractions are museums.
More people go to museums than football matches.
Dance is now second only to football as the most popular activity among school children, and ranks first among girls.
Two thirds of the adult population enjoy the arts, visit historic sites, and go to museums and galleries.
Music contributes nearly £5 billion to the UK economy.
The economic impact of theatre is £2.6 billion a year.
The economic benefits of the UKs major museums and galleries are estimated to be £1.5 billion a year.
Liverpool was the most successful European Capital of Culture ever, with 15 million cultural visits and economic benefits of £800 million.
Museums are the most respected places of education after schools, universities and libraries.