Arts Council England (ACE) has backed the speech culture secretary Maria Miller’s speech made yesterday (24th April), where she insisted that the arts must be valued on their economic benefits.
Speaking at the British Museum, Miller said: “In an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact. To maintain the argument for continued public funding, we must make the case as a two-way street. We must demonstrate the healthy dividends that our investment continues to pay.”
In her speech, she argued that the best way to protect arts funding was to prove “the value of culture to our economy”, and listed examples of successful arts ventues spreading internationally, such as the Hay Festival establishing itself in India. She urged arts and cultural leaders to “build resilience, self-confidence and self-reliance” and position themselves “squarely within the visitor economy” as well as looking for international opportunities.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of ACE said: “As the Secretary of State says, we do need to make the economic case.” He went on to add: “while doing so, we won't forget that it is not all about money".
He also said that ACE will soon publish research that proves arts and culture provides half a percent of all employment in England and is one of the top 15 export products, while receiving less that a tenth of one percent of government funding. He said: “Every civilised society in man's history has felt the need to express and enjoy itself through music, through performance, storytelling or visual works of art. We are no different and the other vital return on the government's investment is that it enables this need to be met for many, not for the few.”
However, former ACE chair Dame Liz Forgan told BBC Radio 4's "World at One" yesterday: "The danger in what she is saying is that people actually start to believe that because art produces huge economic benefits, we should start directing our investment in culture for its commercial potential.
"That's not only philistine, it's self-defeating, because then you get accountants making artistic decisions, which is as silly as having artists making accounting ones. If you start to invest in art because of an identified commercial outcome, you will get worse art and therefore we will get a worse commercial outcome."