Mayor warns against sacrificing golden goose of London arts & culture

05 November 2014

New report into arts spending fails to recognise that more than half the organisations regularly funded by Arts Council England in London spend 80 per cent of their time outside London 


The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today warned against implementing radical proposals that could see Arts Council England funding being switched from the capital to the regions.


The idea is set out in the new report released today by the Commons Media, Culture and Sport Committee, which suggests a dramatic shift in funding as a way of 'rebalancing' the provision of arts and culture around the country.


The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'The report represents a lost opportunity, reigniting the overly simplistic 'London vs the Regions' debate around arts funding. This is based upon spurious calculations and a partial consideration of how the arts are funded. Arts Council England funding represents only one third of the public investment in the arts and more than half of the organisations it regularly funds spend 80 per cent of their time outside the capital.


'London is one of the great world cities for culture, attracting visitors in the millions which helps generate billions the economy of the whole country. Sacrificing this particular golden goose for a bit of glib London bashing will do little to improve cultural provision in the regions and would be an act of sabotage for one of our country's greatest assets.'


The Deputy Mayor of London for Culture Munira Mirza commented: 'The CMS report fails to recognise that many Arts Council funded organisations in London spend most or all of their time touring outside the capital. This is funding that benefits the whole country. The report shows how easy it is to overlook the interdependence between London and the regions. Many London based organisations are involved in creative partnerships and co-commissions that often appear in the regions first and many culture vultures heading to London use it as a gateway to the rest of the country.


'The report is short-sighted and extremely disappointing and says nothing that addresses the key issue affecting arts and culture – reduced arts spending across the board - which affects London as much as it does the regions. To propose further funding cuts to arts in the capital, with the aim of redistributing it amongst the regions, is simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. It would seriously undermine London's status as one of the great world cities for culture, whilst bringing marginal if any long term benefits for people living outside the capital.'


The Mayor's Office made a formal submission to the Commons Media, Culture and Sport Committee, highlighting a range of facts that need to be considered when debating arts funding for the country. They include:

• Arts Council England (ACE) contributes on average only a third of the arts annual spend in England, with local authorities and DCMS contributing the rest.

• More than half the organisations regularly funded by Arts Council England in London spend 80 per cent of their time outside London. For example, since 2008 Artichoke have only produced work outside the capital and companies like Cheek by Jowl and the Actors Touring Company operate mainly in the regions.

• The Philharmonia Orchestra is resident at the Royal Festival Hall but performs twice as many concerts out of London.

• According to ACE, over the last three years more than 70 per cent of its lottery investment has funded projects outside of London, or projects that benefit the whole country. This is an upwards shift from the previous 60 per cent.

• When calculated per visit (and not per head) Arts Council investment in London is only £6.15, lower than any other English Region except the South West. • National institution and arts organisations like the British Museum, the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Tate benefit audiences across the country through touring, sharing of resources and expertise, education programmes and digital distribution. • Cultural organisations in the regions deserve strong investment. This should not be at the expense of London, or vice versa. Six out of 10 of the most deprived boroughs in the country are in London, where a significant number of councils have dramatically cut their arts budgets.

• ACE funding has already been reduced for world-renowned institutions like Royal Opera House and English National Opera, which are competing with much better funded companies in the likes of Paris, Milan and Berlin.


Veronica Wadley, Chairman, Arts Council, London, said: 'Investment in London is not only benefitting all the brilliant arts organisations, big and small, in London but also arts companies and audiences right across the country. For that, we must continue to maintain funding for London. It would be short sighted to punish London for its success as the cultural capital of the world.'


Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, said: 'To maintain our position as a world leader, we need to invent new ideas, stimulate regeneration and frame a culture that is dynamic, cohesive and enlightened. The unique constitution of the Arts Council, as an arms-length funder of artistic and cultural production, is both the primary reason Britain’s creative and cultural sector is a model for the world and the key to sustaining our success in the future. Established in 1946 to prevent political interference in the arts, this proposition remains more important than ever as cultural institutions all over Europe are suffering due to direct political intervention, losing integrity and independence; the UK cannot risk losing its world-class reputation by being similarly compromised. For ambitious pioneers like the Whitechapel Gallery, the autonomy afforded by public support free of political motivation is critical to maintaining our reputation for excellence internationally.'