13/3/2011: British Stars Protest at Government Funding Cuts
On 13th March 2011, a letter from a collection of the biggest names in British film, television and theatre, appeared in The Observer warning that government cuts to funding of the arts in Britain posed a major threat. The letter was written in response to the coalition government’s announcement in October 2010 that Arts Council England, the body responsible for allocating money to various arts venues, would have its budget cut by almost 30%. The announcement, which followed the abolition of the UK Film Council, prompted a number of local councils to cut their arts budgets accordingly.
The letter in full read:
Before the last election the government promised to usher in a "golden age" for the arts. The reality couldn't be further from this. With the reductions announced in last year's Spending Review, the withdrawal of huge amounts of local authority support, the abolition of the UK Film Council and the financial pressures faced by the Arts Councils and the BBC, we are currently facing the biggest threat to funding the arts and culture have experienced in decades.
These cuts are deep and will affect not just those working and training in regional theatre, independent arts, the BBC, UK film, festivals, dance or theatre in education, but also those who access the arts through outreach and education programmes, community and youth groups and social care.
Nationally, the return from cultural investment is staggering. The performing arts and the film industry contribute more than £7bn to the economy each year. If we are serious about rebuilding our economy, culture should not be an easy target for cuts.
We must remember that many of our most internationally recognised artists and creative workers lauded at the Baftas, Oscars and Emmys started in regional theatres and small arts venues.
All those who have a role in taking decisions on cuts must think hard about the potential damage that could be caused to our economy and society.
Lynda Bellingham, Brenda Blethyn, Samantha Bond, Kenneth Branagh, Jo Brand, Rory Bremner, Rob Brydon, Saffron Burrows, Simon Callow, Peter Capaldi, Oliver Ford Davies, Robert Glenister, Sheila Hancock, Miranda Hart, Jeremy Irons, Mike Leigh, Adrian Lester, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Matthew Macfadyen, Patrick Malahide, Miriam Margolyes, Ian McDiarmid, Ian McShane, Dame Helen Mirren, Bill Paterson, Maxine Peake, Timothy Pigott-Smith, Diana Quick, Tony Robinson, Prunella Scales, Martin Shaw, Michael Sheen, Malcolm Sinclair, Imelda Staunton, Alison Steadman, Clive Swift, David Tennant, David Threlfall, Sandi Toksvig, Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas, Julie Walters, Samuel West, Timothy West, Penelope Wilton, Victoria Wood
The Government’s culture secretary Jeremy Hunt responded by saying that the signatories to the letter were ‘right to have concerns about what is happening in some local areas,’ and added, ‘I would urge local councils to recognise the huge economic importance of the arts, as well as the cultural and social importance. But at a national level... the actual net cut in arts funding is only 11% and that is a lot better than, for example, the police, or the Foreign Office.
So we are doing everything we can, precisely because we understand the economic importance of the arts and what they do for our national way of life.‘
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