Arts Council chief Davey urges government to resist cutting "essential" sector funding

By Culture24 Staff | 21 October 2009
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Alan Davey (above) argued that every pound of public money invested in the arts sector creates double as much elsewhere

The Chief Executive of the Arts Council has urged the government to resist cutting arts funding as a result of the economic recession and the result of the forthcoming General Election.

Speaking at the pragmatically-titled Culture is Right conference on London's South Bank, Alan Davey said investment in the arts remains "rational, economically sound and essential to our quality of life." He also challenged ministers to avoid returning to "a Millsean view of the most efficient creation of wealth being the sole aim of any society."

"Culture is important for any government which places quality of life for its citizens at the heart of its agenda," he declared.

"To do this we need a thriving arts and cultural infrastructure that gives artists the opportunity to create, and to make a living from practicing their art. If we don't start with the art, nothing of the above happens."

Davey also argued that every pound of public money invested in the arts sector creates double as much elsewhere, providing jobs and crucial support for the economy.

"Not all public spending is bad," he pointed out, claiming funding of the sector accounts for less than 0.1% of funding expenditure.

"Ours works hard and, because of this, there is a disproportionate effect when it is cut. What we do affects the kind of country we are."

Davey quoted a disparate cast of figures during his stand. He contextualised former Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s assertion that "man cannot live by GDP alone" by suggesting that arts spending "adds to GDP but gives you much more", and cited 19th century John Ruskin's view that arts money "goes beyond the material and straight to who we are."

"The role of artists is to give expression and meaning to the world around us, and the role of funders is to support them in what they do best – to challenge, to thrill, to excite and to inspire us," he added.

He pledged the Arts Council would strengthen its working relationship with funding bodies to make difficult decisions and develop new business models.

"We will work with you to make our contribution better understood," he promised, addressing the future government.

"Please understand the mechanism you have, and the effects of formulaic cuts. Public investment in the arts works hard – the system you have is unique and should be celebrated."

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