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Arts bodies appeal to Cameron over cuts

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 15 July 2010

Don't "kill" of cultural institutions with harsh spending cuts, leaders of arts organisations plead with Prime Minister David Cameron as the artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic tells Channel 4 News that any big cuts will also hit jobs.

Actor in a theatre (credit:Getty Images)

Leaders of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Tate and the Serpentine Gallery launched their appeal this morning, saying that while the culture sector is willing to contribute to the country's economic recovery, cuts of 25 to 40 per cent would be "catastrophic".

At the launch at Tate Britain, they said the cuts would come on top of those already being made this year, as well as the cultural sector's £322m contribution to the cost of the Olympics.

Arts Council England has estimated that 200 of the 850 organisations it supports would go under over a four-year period if the cuts were as much as 25 to 30 per cent, and more would be affected as they rely on match funding from local authorities who are also making cuts.

Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones said: "Philanthropists are being asked to step in and cover the shortfall.

"In my view (this) is simply not realistic."

She went on to say: "Philanthropy is a gift which is given and freely taken away."

RSC executive director Vikki Heywood said there was a "tipping point" for arts organisations.

"We will not be able to juggle this level of cuts as an industry without it affecting the public," she said.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said: "Our concern is not that there will be cuts.

"I think we all recognise that there need to be cuts in public expenditure over the next four years.

"It is to do with the scale of the cut."

Although he admitted that Tate was "surrounded by wealth", he said: "We certainly aren't immune but I think it's the smaller organisations above all that I really worry about in these circumstances."

"We won't see the impact this year or next year, we will feel it and see it very visibly by the time we get to 2015, 2016, 2020," he said. "Because a generation will not be there to create the new art that has been so successful in this country over the past 20 years."

Sir Nicholas said: "We can maintain the character of what we do, albeit in a slightly reduced form, if cuts are... of a reasonable size.

"As soon as they go over a certain level you start to really cut in to the heart of what we all do."

Tom Morris, the artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic told Channel 4 News that any significant cuts would hit local organisations, and jobs.

"Some organisations would probably have to close if such big cuts were passed on. Not only would our contribution to the cultural life of the nation be reduced, which is a hard thing to argue for in such a difficult economic environment , but critically the very big contribution arts sector makes or could make to the economic recovery will be reduced and I think that's the thing we need to be thinking hard about."

He said both new Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey had been sympathetic to the arguments put forward, saying: "This is not a stand-off."

In May, Mr Hunt outlined plans to boost philanthropic giving to the arts, promising culture would not be seen as a "soft target" and the Government would be "open, fair and as quick as possible in letting people know what their funding will be for the next spending settlement".

He acknowledged: "I think it's going to be very difficult to make cuts without pain."

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